Chief Secretary on THA Budget

Chief Secretary Orville London.
The death rate among persons with HIV/AIDS in Tobago has dropped by 85 per cent while hospitalisation of those with the disease was down by 70 per cent, THA Chief Secretary Orville London disclosed on Thursday.

He said over the past ten years his administration had not done badly where the treatment aspect of the disease was concerned and “we have done reasonably well. We are not doing badly”. He added that over 500 persons have been identified, 400 were on treatment, 92 per cent were on first line anti retro-viral treatment and eight per cent on second line treatment as a result of the first line treatment failing.

“The mortality rate where a lot of progress has been done is down by 85 percent from what it was and hospitalisation is down70 per cent which means there are a number of people who are HIV positive are in fact living new full lives and being able to go to work and so on,” he told Assemblymen in his contribution to the debate on the THA $4.318 billion budget for fiscal 2013.

London said he was particularly proud to announce that there were 66 babies that were born to HIV positive patients and not one of them had been tested positive at birth which meant that the management of that has been up to international standards.

He said he was also particularly pleased that HIV testing increased by over 700 per cent in ten years, however there was a problem in getting males tested. “It is quite interesting that males do not test as well as females. I understand that what they do is that they send the females and if you are all right then I am all right, that is another story.”

London said the big problem now was prevention because the disease was no longer the death sentence that it used to be. He said people were getting careless again and during the coming year the Assembly was going to do something about it through the village councils and other groups.

Turning his attention to land titles in Tobago, the Tobago Chief Secretary said when the PP administration took office in 2010 there were three pieces of legislation dealing with the issue that were prepared and ready to go to parliament. However, he said, in an effort to ensure that credit was not given to the previous administration the government will start the process all over again and were going to come back after two or three years to the same situation that they were in in 2010. “They will come back with the same piece of legislation, carry it through parliament and achieve the same result but at the end of the day you really only have wasted or lost two or three years,” London said.

He added: “That is how they operate, they redo things, just as how they redo the Roxborough gas station, ready to go, contract awarded, stop it, redo it, two years past, big splash, $9.5 million which they could have spent two years ago to finish the gas station giving the impression that they started it over, same thing they did with the police stations, contracts awarded for Roxborough and Old Grange, they stop it, start over and they can’t start back yet but when they start back they will give the impression that it was their idea in the first place.”

London said the Assembly supported the process of settling the land titles issue because it was a process that was meant to bring relief to Tobagonians. “The fact that it took so long is an indication that there were and still are, because it is not a panacea for all the things facing us, they were and still are administrative, judicial and social problems, because anything you come up with will have its own problems but it will be better than what we have now.” However, he said, he wanted to place on record that because of the cynicism of this central government administration “we have lost at least two years”.

London said while Minority Leader Ashworth Jack was telling Assemblymen about all the benefits that can be derived from the energy sector and Tobagonians must get involved, he was holding on to a process in the Green Paper on Self Government for Tobago which says Tobago must be defined by ten nautical miles around the island. “When you do that you are going to ensure that Tobago has no rights, Tobago has no case in relationship to benefiting from the exercise.”

He said if the Attorney General’s position on the definition of what was Tobago was accepted the only revenue it will get was from selling fish but if the Assembly was able to get into the process and into the Constitution its definition of Tobago as being 200 miles under international law the island will have claim according to the law to taxes and levies on these companies that operate in what would be considered Tobago.

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