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Tackling HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination in the Caribbean

Mother and child, both living with HIV in Guatemala

Image courtesy of UNAIDS

Working closely with the External link, opens in new window Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), DFID Caribbean has been developing a programme to make a lasting change in the region to reduce the high levels of stigma and discrimination that affect those living with HIV and AIDS.

In November 2005, PANCAP and DFID teamed up to stage "Champions for Change II", in Guyana, especially designed to work closely with leaders of a wide range of faith-based organisations throughout the Caribbean. 

Over 100 senior leaders came together with people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHAs) and AIDS programme staff from 14 countries, resolving to work together more effectively to challenge stigma and discrimination. In the past, these groups had tended to be very critical of one another and had not found common ground on which to move forward. 

Voices from the Caribbean

People living with AIDS meet leaders of faith-based organisations in Guyana November 2005Unlike in Africa, the major faith-based organisations in the Caribbean have not yet been actively involved in prevention and care programmes, but leaders at the Champions for Change event in 2005 (pictured) resolved that is going to change, having heard at the conference speakers from Africa highlighting the crucial role the faith-based organisations can, and must, play.

Here are some quotes from the region illustrating how stigma and discrimination has a serious impact on people living with HIV and AIDS and their families.

  • "If I speak out publicly on behalf of our group", said the leader of a gay rights group, "I will certainly be beaten or worse, and we don't put the office address on the web site, so that it is not burned down."
  • The young schoolgirl cried as she spoke, "Why are my friends treating me this way? What could I have done to stop my mother dying of AIDS? I miss her so much and now I have nobody who will talk to me."
  • An AIDS counsellor working in the region said: "The major constraint is that those who come forward for voluntary counselling and testing, may well find out the results of their test from the stares, gossip and tittle tattle on the streets, rather than in confidential supportive counselling."

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The future

Adolescent girls in the Caribbean - a group particularly vulnerable to HIV infection

Image courtesy of IADB

PANCAP and DFID are also working to establish a regional coordination unit to carry forward work in each country and establish training of trainers programmes throughout the region, to complement the work that individual "Champions for Change" events are doing in all the countries of the region.

As one Minister of Health said recently:

"The money has been provided, yet people living with AIDS are simply not coming forward for drugs and support!

"We must find a way to be open and accepting, otherwise people living with HIV and AIDS will hide from the stigma and discrimination, or be forced to migrate around the region. All of us have to take action, to be Champions for Change, and not think that this is a problem for other people."

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Key facts

  • The Champions for Change programme started in November 2004, when DFID development minister Gareth Thomas joined a wide range of senior political leaders, sports and cultural icons to establish the first Champions for Change event.
  • There are 300,000 adults and children living with AIDS at December 2005. This translates into prevalence of 1.6% across the region, which has been stable since 2003. It remains the region with the second-highest prevalence rate after sub-Saharan Africa.
  • DFID recognises that to achieve poverty reduction it needs to continue to make progress on reducing the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS - see Regional Assistance Plan for the Caribbean Plan (2004-2007)PDF, opens in new window(637 KB)
  • DFID's support to the Caribbean region is 3m (2004-2007).
  • External link, opens in new windowBBC World Service Trust: Caribbean HIV and AIDS radio spots (22 Aug 2005)
  • External link, opens in new windowUNAIDS Caribbean homepage

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