Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Rodger Samuel is hoping for a large enough allocation in the 2011/2012 national Budget to fight HIV/Aids in the country.
He said from all of the documentation sent to the Finance Ministry budgetary division there has to be such an increase. “If not we are in trouble because it is not to be taken lightly anymore”, Samuel declared. He was speaking in an interview following a recent meeting with THA Chief Secretary Orville London; Secretary of Health and Social Services Claudia Groome-Duke; and members of the Tobago Aids Coordinating Committee.
Samuel said unfortunately there continues to be an increase in cases in Trinidad and Tobago, pointing out assuredly that as of 2009 there were about 21,000 people infected. He said add 1,400 per year subsequent to that so the cases were above 25,000 and that was only from the public sector testing agencies. Estimating the number of private testing taking place the situation can be far worse, over 30,000 probably and that was not good per capita when one looked at the population of Trinidad and Tobago. “This is really heading in a pandemic mode rather than just taking it from a social standpoint and it is something we are looking at quite seriously in order to bring about the kind of change in lifestyle and the preventive mechanisms that is necessary to take a hold of it in Trinidad and Tobago,” he added.
Samuel said HIV/Aids in Trinidad and Tobago was no longer a health issue, no longer a social issue but was now becoming an economic issue. He said the country no longer had the kind of subventions from foreign agencies that were now redirecting them to the African continent. “We now have to finance our approaches and drives and everything to do with HIV/Aids will have to come from us and it means if we don’t look at it and invest in it now in the long term it is going to cost this nation even more.”
Samuel said the government was looking at the preventative mechanisms and how it can save the nation and get everybody on board to take ownership. “If we can get everybody in Trinidad and Tobago to start to see themselves playing an integral role, playing a part in now saving the nation, really we are in a save the nation campaign when it comes to this aspect of HIV in Trinidad and Tobago,” he added.
He said his visit to Tobago was to sort of tighten the collaboration with the Tobago Aids Coordinating Committee and what was being done in Trinidad and Tobago out of the Office of the Prime Minister. He said it was also to ensure there were cohesiveness and a tremendous collaborative approach towards the dealing with HIV/Aids in Trinidad and Tobago.
THA Secretary of Health and Social Services Claudia Groome-Duke said it was a very informative meeting and one in which “we have deepened the collaborative spirit”.