The city of Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago hosted a regional consultation called “Religious Leaders’ Contribution to the End of AIDS by 2030” last month. AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) co-organized the two-day event, which drew 55 leaders from 14 countries, together with Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) and the Planning Committee of Religious Leaders.
During the consultation, Dr. Kevin Harvey, AHF Regional Director for the Caribbean region, called for more action from faith-based organizations to quell the spread of HIV in the region.
“The Caribbean still remains the second most affected region in the world with an estimated 1.1% HIV prevalence rate, and recently there is talk about us slipping behind and not maintaining the gains of the last decade,” Harvey said.
Keynote speaker Prof. Clive Landis, Deputy Principal of the University of the West Indies, pointed out the importance of “Treatment as Prevention” and the need to remove social barriers to treatment.
“Everyone in society has a rational self-interest to eliminating stigma and discrimination in order to create a supportive environment where people feel secure enough to know their status, have access to ART [antiretroviral treatment] and to achieve viral suppression,” Landis said.
At the conclusion of two extensive working group sessions, consultation attendees had drafted 10 future actions to contribute to the end AIDS by 2030 and four methods for their implementation.
Religious leaders from five different faiths used targets established in the United Nations’ (UN) Political Declaration – adopted after the High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS last June – as guidelines for action.