UN roundtable stresses need to prevent HIV's spread among vulnerable groups

UN roundtable stresses need to prevent HIV's spread among vulnerable groups

The importance of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS among vulnerable groups emerged as a central theme during the first roundtable discussion held in as part of the current United Nations General Assembly special session on the pandemic, according to the Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, who chaired the informal talks.

"We looked at the need for well-established educational programmes that are targeted to vulnerable groups, like youth and women, and also those high-risk groups which include men having sex with men, drug users and sex workers," Prime Minister Denzil Douglas told correspondents on Monday evening following the conclusion of the roundtable discussion. He said participants had also emphasized the importance of training health care workers and others active in promoting the lifestyle changes needed to stop the disease's spread.

"We are also making the point from this roundtable that prevention is cost-effective, and it is feasible, and therefore it must be part of the overall strategy in the fight against HIV/AIDS," he said. Prevention must involve the full spectrum of responses, "from those which are immediate responses, like abstinence from sex and condom use, to long-term behavioural changes, for example the empowerment of women to say 'no' to unsafe sex."

The roundtable was "very firm" on the need to involve all sectors of society at the community level in each country "if we are to effectively fight against AIDS," he said.

The Prime Minister stressed that comprehensive prevention must address the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people. It must also promote safer and more responsible sexual behaviour. In addition, efforts must focus on preventing HIV-positive pregnant women from transmitting the virus to their children. Vulnerable groups deserved particular attention, he added.

Representatives of governments, civil society groups, UN agencies and intergovernmental organizations all took part in Monday's roundtable discussion. Three other roundtables are scheduled for the current session, focusing on HIV/AIDS and human rights, the disease's socio-economic impact, and international funding and cooperation.