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World AIDS Day- 2011

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Getting To Zero – World AIDS Day

The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “Getting to Zero - Zero New HIV Infections. Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths”. The theme was announced on 9 September 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa. This theme is backed by the United Nations “Getting to Zero” campaign and runs until 2015. It builds on last year’s successful World AIDS Day “Light for Rights” initiative encompassing a range of vital issues identified by key affected populations.

According to Dr. Allyson Leacock, Executive Director, Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership (CBMP) and Chairman of The World AIDS Campaign (WAC), the WAC went through an extensive consultation before selecting the theme and slogan for this year’s World AIDS Day.་She explained that the WAC chose a theme that had flexibility to cultural realities. As a result:
• The  overall WAD concept/overarching theme for the next four years will be “Getting to Zero” (till 2015) with the understanding that  different groups and regions will focus on a zero which is most relevant to  them.
• The World AIDS Campaign adoption of “Zero AIDS-Related  Deaths” as its World AIDS Day focus for 2011 under the overarching theme of “Getting to Zero”.

“The Caribbean therefore needs to decide if it will also adopt "Zero AIDS-Related Deaths" as its World AIDS Day focus for 2011 or if it will focus instead on "Zero New Infections" or "Zero Discrimination" or all three zeros. The choice is ours and I think PANCAP is well placed to lead that initiative” Dr. Leacock added. She offered some explanation on how the “Zeros” could be used in the Caribbean for World AIDS Day.

Zero AIDS-related Deaths

Dr. Leacock said under this “zero” the Caribbean needs need to push for access to treatment for everyone as a fundamental human right to health and access, not only for free or affordable medication but also food which is needed to take the medication.

Zero New Infections

Dr Leacock noted that the Caribbean needs to start talking more “this multiple partner syndrome that we continue to glorify and recognise as it is almost suicidal behaviour. We need to value ourselves and our loved ones enough to love, protect and respect having safer sexual practices.” She lamented that the data on new infections tells us that work in this area is far from over and more needs to be done to aggressively and creatively address this in the Caribbean. “I think this is particularly relevant as a theme for the Caribbean. This means we need to dramatically revolutionise our media messaging and use new messengers to help us reduce sexual transmission of HIV by half by 2015,” she added.

་Zero Stigma and Discrimination་

Stigma and Discrimination (S and D) continue to be the twin handicaps to all the work being done to halt the spread of HIV in the Caribbean. “We still judge people living with HIV and many still feel the piercing effects of S and D which can be more painful than HIV itself” Dr. Leacock said.་She shared her thoughts on why she believes there is only one Caribbean country with bold persons living with HIV (PLHIV) who have publicly disclosed their status and are involved in media campaigns.་“We have not matured as a people to be big enough to create safe spaces for people to feel it is alright for them to reveal their status without themselves being ridiculed or their children and families being alienated” she lamented.

Secondly, Dr. Leacock added “We continue to assign shame to the disease and assume it is only applicable to some class of person or one behaviour when the statistics are showing us that HIV is everywhere and HIV does not have a 'look'”.་She said the World AIDS Day theme of “Getting to Zero” is therefore the perfect platform for renewed focus and energies to be placed on HIV. “HIV is with us and the Caribbean is still the region with the highest prevalence rate after sub-Saharan Africa. We need to ramp up our efforts not just for WAD but all year. Our efforts to address this must be redoubled and it is not something that is the responsibility of Governments alone but us as individuals living and working in the Caribbean. It begins with you,” Dr. Leacock added.

Allison Ali

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