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U.S. Expands HIV/AIDS Programs In Caribbean

Representatives from the U.S. and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Tuesday signed an agreement to expand PEPFAR programs to 12 other Caribbean nations during a gathering in Georgetown, Guyana, Agence France-Presse reports (5/11).

“The new collaboration, over a five-year period, will give support for the HIV fight in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname,” Stabroek News reports.

“Previously, only two CARICOM member-nations – Guyana and Haiti – and the Dominican Republic had benefited from” PEPFAR in the region, the news service writes. “Under the agreement, the 12 countries would get 25 million dollars annually or up to 125 million over the next five years to assist with prevention, testing, strategic information and counseling, said the charge d’afffaires of the U.S. embassy, Karen Williams,” AFP continues (5/11). According to the Associated Press, Williams said countries can begin requesting PEPFAR funds next month (5/11).

During the event, CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General Lolita Applewhaite “described the Framework Partnership Agreement as ‘an important milestone in the evolution of [Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS],’ and ‘another clear signal of its maturing relationship with the foremost international development partners providing support in the field of HIV and AIDS,'” according to a CARICOM press release (5/11). The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the Caribbean region is second only to that in sub-Saharan Africa, the AP adds (5/11).

In related news, Inter Press Services examines an initiative in Latin America and the Caribbean to eradicate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis by 2015 that aims to guarantee comprehensive health care for pregnant women.

The article details the findings of a PAHO report that examined the vertical transmission of disease in the region, noting “that some countries have made ‘significant progress’ towards eliminating vertical transmission of both diseases, while in others there are ‘considerable gaps,'” IPS writes. “One hurdle is [a] lack of prenatal care; another is childbirth attended by non-medical personnel. In addition, access to diagnostic tests may be difficult, and results may be severely delayed,” the news service writes.

The article also includes comments from Bertha Gomez, a PAHO adviser on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections for the Andean region, and Patricia Perez, coordinator of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (Valente, 5/11).

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