As the international community focuses on the HIV/AIDS epidemic at the UN General Assembly this week, UN Secretary General Kofi Anan`s Special Envoy for AIDS in the Caribbean says the spread of the disease should be the concern of every citizen of the region.
Sir George Alleyne, former director of the Pan American Health Organisation, said he wants to see the Caribbean population alerted to the nature and urgency of the problem and the possibility of doing something about it, adding that stigma and discrimination could be driving the epidemic underground, inhibiting people from coming forward. “For people with AIDS, the urgent challenge is having access to appropriate therapy for it,” Sir George stated after being honored by the International Consortium of Caribbean Professionals at the UN over the weekend.
On a global scale, AIDS has killed 28 million people, and an estimated 42 million are now living with HIV and AIDS. Every day, 6,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 become HIV-positive. HIV/AIDS represents a significant obstacle to all efforts at poverty reduction and sustainable development in the countries of the Caribbean as the sub-region (including Haiti and Dominican Republic) has the second highest disease prevalence (2.2%) in the world, second only to Sub-Saharan Africa (8.4%).
Sir George identified the Caribbean`s media as a key partner to help curb the spread of the disease. “The media can do a lot to sensitise people, not overdramatising the nature of the epidemic, but in a very sensible and balanced way, putting to the public the extent of the problem that exists and the idea that AIDS is everybody`s problem,” said Sir George.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), along with Counterpart International, is getting the media more deeply involved in the battle to turn the tide of HIV/AIDS in the region. They are arranging a major regional media competition and awards ceremony in Kingston Jamaica in November to encourage the media to cover the subject. UNFPA is offering more than US$6,000 in cash prizes, airline tickets and hotel stays for the awards ceremony. For further information, visit www.caribbeanmediaawards.com .
This year`s awards are open to all Caribbean-based journalists covering “Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” issues in the region. This includes stories or reports on curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS, early initiation of sexual activity, fostering behavioural change, promoting gender equality, sexual exploitation (including sex tourism) and population, poverty reduction and sustainable development.
Hetty Sarjeant, United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA representative in the English and Dutch Caribbean, agrees with Sir George and emphasized that governments, inter-governmental organizations and NGOs ought to create strong partnerships with regional writers and editors to combat the epidemic and address other adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues.
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(14/08/03) Sarjeant Wants Media to Assist Battle Against AIDS