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Bajans must be vigilant

Barbados must remain vigilant and proactive in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Director of the National HIV/AIDS Commission, Jacqui Wiltshire-Gay, stressed the importance of this approach as Government works to successfully implement its second joint HIV Prevention & Control Project 2008-2013 with the World Bank.

Wiltshire-Gay, whose department is the coordinating agency of the national programme and the project, said Government was seeking to restructure the 2007 negotiated project with the assistance of a World Bank team that is currently in Barbados.

The project is partly funded by a US $35 million World Bank loan, which supports the HIV National Strategic Plan. Under the existing loan agreement, except for US $3.5 million of the US $35 million, the Government of Barbados must expend 100 per cent of its own funds to be reimbursed 35 per cent of the monies spent.

Furthermore, it must spend at least 70 per cent up front in order to be reimbursed the 35 per cent. The advance is subject to all the terms and conditions of a commercial loan, and it was negotiated in a very different economic environment at the time.

Wiltshire-Gay explained that this arrangement had become a challenge for the project in the present global economic recession. In addition, she noted, Barbados had adopted the sector-wide approach and budgetary allocations to implement the National AIDS Programme, which is placed annually across various ministries.

“It is well-known that the project has faced a number of challenges since its commencement in January 2009,” she added. “With the onset of the prevailing economic recession, the Government … steadfastly pursued a policy of prudent stewardship of public funds and, understandably, fewer resources could be allocated in advance to the HIV response.

“Measures were, however, put in place to ensure that the work continued and that HIV programmes were implemented in pursuit of the objectives of the National Strategic Plan. Furthermore, there were some areas where funding was no longer required to the levels projected.

“These included a significant reduction in the cost of drugs as a result of regional negotiations with the Clinton Foundation; the fact that Persons Living with HIV were now more readily accommodated in families and communities, leading to the closure of the Elroy Phillips Residential Centre, and evidence-based policy decisions taken not to conduct certain other activities.”

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