The United States and The Bahamas remain strong partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS; Nicole Avant, U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas; Op-Ed in Bahamas Islands Info; Bahamas

December 1, 2010

On World AIDS Day, December 1st, 2010, we pay tribute to the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide and continue to spread the word that in spite of much success, too many lives are still being devastated by this deadly disease. We have a shared responsibility to build on the success achieved to date by making smart investments that will ultimately save more lives.

For the U.S. Embassy, it is particularly exciting to say that thanks to our many partners, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has provided treatment and support to more than a million men, women and children around the world. Launched in 2003 to combat global AIDS, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the largest commitment in history by any nation to combat a single disease.

This year, through PEPFAR, the U.S. government committed more than $1.6 million in assistance to The Bahamas in the areas of prevention, strategic information and laboratory strengthening as well as human capacity development and strengthening. This figure does not include additional assistance that is available through regional programs operating in the wider Caribbean. The U.S. commitment to the Caribbean Region is on the order of more than $67 million. We hope that these resources will have a cumulative, positive and enduring impact on the national public health system through the increasing access for all Bahamians, especially on the Family Islands.

The Department of Health and Human Services through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Bahamas' Ministry of Health recently signed a five-year joint cooperative agreement through PEPFAR, to assist in strengthening The Bahamas' national HIV/AIDS response with a view to ensuring sustainability. In addition, under PEPFAR, health experts from partnering U.S. Government agencies will work hand-in-hand with government officials, civil society, the private sector and community leaders to support plans, improve oversight and enhance management of the National HIV/AIDS Program and supported activities, as progress is made in meeting the combined goals of the 2010-2014 Caribbean Regional Partnership Framework and the Bahamas' National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan. It is anticipated that this new partnership between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bahamas' Ministry of Health under the PEPFAR umbrella will prove beneficial to both entities.

The United States looks forward to continuing our support of successes like these, and we are committed to furthering efforts that curb the spread of HIV in The Bahamas, and by extension the Caribbean region. However, we also know that there are a number of obstacles that threaten the success of future HIV prevention, treatment and care efforts, and we need your help to ensure that we overcome these barriers. This is a global fight and, as PEPFAR moves forward, the United States looks forward to working with you and our partners around the world to support The Bahamas's leadership in its quest to end this epidemic.

Over the next five years, the United States will continue to renew its commitment to partnering with The Bahamas in strengthening The Bahamas' national HIV/AIDS response. The U.S. Embassy in The Bahamas has seen first-hand the importance of country ownership, and will continue to work together with all sectors of The Bahamas as strategies are crafted and programs expanded to stop the spread HIV/AIDS. And through PEPFAR, the United States lends support to the Bahamian leadership in its efforts to make universal access a reality.

We know that an HIV/AIDS program alone will not defeat this disease. As part of the United States' Global Health Initiative outlined by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, PEPFAR funding will seek to support The Bahamas' National Health Services Strategic plan to fully integrate and expand access to other health care services, including those that address tuberculosis, malaria, maternal and child health, chronic non-communicable diseases and family planning, with HIV/AIDS programs. As we work together to defeat HIV/AIDS, we must also remember to ensure that the work we do addresses the human rights challenges that drive the spread of HIV - those of stigma and discrimination against vulnerable most -at-risk populations. It is hoped that through our combined efforts more Bahamians will be able to access the care they need, and that we will assist in strengthening The Bahamas' public health system to be able to withstand the challenges of the future.

The United States is committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS, and is unwavering in its support. And today, on World AIDS 2010, we recommit ourselves to furthering our achievements and reemphasize our continued commitment to The Bahamas' as we partner to fight HIV/AIDS in The Bahamas and by extension, the Caribbean region.

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