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Celebrating the U.S. – Eastern Caribbean Partnership to Tackle HIV / AIDS

Statement by U.S. Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the OECS Linda Taglialatela

Image of United States Ambassador to Barbados and the OECS, Linda Taglialatela
U.S. Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the OECS Linda Taglialatela

Each year on December 1, the world commemorates World AIDS Day. This important awareness day provides a time to reflect on our worldwide response to HIV/AIDS while honoring those who lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses. On this World AIDS Day, I want to thank our partners within the region and renew our commitment to supporting the well-being of those with HIV, as well as those at risk for infection.

The U.S. government’s theme for World AIDS Day 2022 is “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV,” which emphasizes accountability and action. This theme echoes the Biden-Harris Administration’s dedication to ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat worldwide by addressing health disparities in key populations. These disparities have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and monkeypox outbreak. Fortunately, prior investments in our U.S.-Eastern Caribbean partnership allowed us to maximize the impact of these resources. As a result of our long-term partnership in Barbados, for example, our President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) contributed more than US$6 million to build the Best Dos Santos Laboratory, a state-of-the-art public health facility with biosafety level-3 capability.

The Laboratory has taken center stage in the efforts to identify, detect, and trace the COVID-19 pandemic. PEPFAR worked with Barbados to institutionalize STI/HIV surveillance systems, track national spending on HIV-related programming, and enhance the quality and accuracy of national clinical data. PEPFAR also coordinated closely with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to strengthen relationships with civil society organizations like Equals Barbados, and tailor health services for members of key populations acutely affected by HIV.

Through PEPFAR, the U.S. government has saved more than 21 million lives, prevented millions of HIV infections, and helped over a dozen high disease-burden countries achieve control of their HIV epidemic. My government continues to work with partners in the Eastern Caribbean and across the world to meet the UNAIDS 95-95-95 HIV treatment target. This is the UN’s ambitious goal that by 2030, 95% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 95% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive treatment, and 95% of all people receiving treatment will have viral suppression.

Although Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean countries do not currently host PEPFAR-supported programmes, I am proud that each country has safely ensured access to HIV services, including core prevention services that were affected by early COVID-19 mitigation measures. Many of these HIV prevention programs have since expanded, while keeping clients and staff safe from COVID-19.

I want to thank the Government of Barbados, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and the National Aids Program Secretariat for their partnership and for the recognition of the value of civil society organizations to Barbados’ HIV response. We look forward to continuing our work with the governments and people of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean to continue the fight against HIV, COVID-19, and other diseases that may threaten our region and our world.

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