First Lady Maria Browne addresses World AIDS Day event in Saint Kitts and Nevis
On Friday 1st December, World AIDS Day, Mrs. Maria Bird Browne, wife of Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne and member of the Spouses of Caribbean Leaders Action Network, (S-CLAN) participated in a World AIDS Day event in Saint Kitts and Nevis organized by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in collaboration with UNAIDS and PANCAP.
We are pleased to present the full text of Mrs. Maria Bird Browne’s remarks during the morning session of the event:
Maria Bird Browne
First Lady of Antigua and Barbuda and Member of Spouses of Caribbean Leaders Action Network (S-CLAN) member, Maria Bird-Browne
World AIDS Day 2017 Event
Marriott Resort St. Kitts
1st December 2017
“My Right to Health” & “Everybody Counts”
- Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Dr. Timothy Harris; Director of the Pan American Health Organisation, Carissa Etienne; Cesar Nunez, UNAIDS Latin America and Caribbean Regional Support Team Director, Dr. Noreen Jack, PAHO/WHO Representative Jamaica; government representatives, development partners, healthcare workers, members of civil society and members of the media.
- Thank you very much for inviting me to this very important World AIDS Day Event. I bring you greetings from the Executive and members of the Spouses of Caribbean Leaders Action Network (S-CLAN). I also bring you special greetings and wishes for a successful World AIDS Day event from Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda the Hon. Gaston Browne.
- It is a pleasure for me to be here among so many distinguished individuals as we celebrate World AIDS Day, reflecting on the loved ones and friends we have lost, and celebrating the significant progress we have made over the years in combatting HIV and AIDS – thanks to the hard work of some of you assembled here today.
- It is my hope that our celebration this year will further re-energize us to the mission that we all share, which is championing the right to health and ensuring that everyone counts as we work towards an AIDS free region.
- Thank you to Monique, Alexus and Ainsley for your stories and insights shared earlier. You have not only shared some of the barriers so many people encounter along the path toward health and wellbeing, but also the possibility for empowerment, partnership and success.
- I particularly want to respond to Monique’s story and those of all the other young Caribbean women who face the multi-layered challenges of motherhood, living with HIV and prejudice.
- Later today, six Caribbean countries and territories, including my country Antigua and Barbuda, will be validated as having eliminated mother-to-child HIV and Syphilis transmission. This is a testament to political leadership, health system strengthening and global partnership toward an ambitious goal.
- But it is also fundamentally about the commitment and courage of women. Mothers living with HIV are not passive beneficiaries of transmission prevention programmes. Their determination to secure the best possible outcomes for their children is the driving force of this achievement.
- The sustained involvement of communities of people living with HIV, and their partners, is critical. Community advocates like Monique increase our chances of achieving and sustaining positive health outcomes for women, families and communities through peer support, awareness building, advocacy and the empowerment of women living with HIV.
- There is perhaps no greater symbol of our hope to end AIDS than our ability to ensure that children are born HIV-free. But now that more Caribbean countries are drawing closer to that target we must set our sights on a higher ambition. Having been born HIV-free, how do we ensure that our children stay HIV-free through adolescence and adulthood? What must we do today to ensure that all children in our region are protected, informed, empowered and able to assert their right to health throughout their lives?
- The Caribbean must confront complex challenges ranging from child protection to adolescent pregnancy in a courageous and rational manner. We must strengthen our social support mechanisms, ensuring that families and communities are supported and empowered to provide safe, nurturing environments for children.
- We must finish our long-standing assignment of ensuring that every single child has access to age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education so that whenever they become sexually active they know how to assert their rights, fulfill their responsibilities and mitigate their risks. And we must secure our young people’s right to health by providing youth-friendly healthcare and removing barriers that currently block them from accessing the prevention, diagnostic and treatment services they need to attain the highest attainable standard of health.
- Together with the other members of the Spouses of Caribbean Leaders Action Network (S-CLAN) I am committed to propelling the Every Caribbean Woman Every Caribbean Child movement which envisions a region in which “every woman, child and adolescent in every setting realizes their rights to physical and mental health and well-being, has social and economic opportunities, and is able to participate fully in shaping prosperous and sustainable societies”. Today’s testimonies remind us that a critical part of that work is enabling people and communities to drive change, claim their rights and hold leaders to account.
- I conclude by commending the leadership of the six countries that will be validated today as having eliminated mother-to-child HIV and Syphilis transmission.
- In Antigua and Barbuda, the Gaston Browne administration since coming into office in 2014, embarked on a rigorous health improvement drive for the people. Over the past three years, the healthcare system has seen successful kidney transplants, successful pacemaker implantations, the introduction of maxillofacial surgeries and the elimination of mother to child HIV and Syphilis transmission.
- The work by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and St. Kitts and Nevis are to be highly commended. S-CLAN will continue to work with these and other governments across the region in helping them to realize a region where women, men and young people can protect themselves from infection; when all people with HIV will have free access to effective treatments and when no more babies are born with HIV or AIDS – this is our vision – a vision where everybody counts.
- As we continue our celebration today, it is my wish that we keep the focus, that we maintain the fight, that we continue to remember and honour those we have lost, and that we adopt their resilience to do more to save more.
- Thank you very much and may God grant us his blessings!