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The Turks and Caicos Islands wins the Henry C Smith Award for Immunisation

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Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – Friday, 3 November 2023: The Henry C. Smith Immunisation Award is given to the country in the English-speaking Caribbean that shows improvement in vaccination coverage in the under-five-year age group.  This is the second time that the Turks and Caicos Islands has won this award.  While the TCI maintains very good vaccination coverage generally, in 2022, there was a marked improvement in the primary doses of childhood vaccines.  The TCI achieved 94% in Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) dose 1, an increase from 88% in 2021, 99% in MMR 2, an increase from 82% in 2021 and 99% in Diphtheria Tetanus Pertussis Haemophilus Influenza Type B and Hepatitis B, an increase from 94% in 2021.

The award is presented annually at the expanded programme on Immunisation Managers’ meeting.  This year the meeting was held in Belize City, Belize.  Accepting the award on behalf of the TCI was Ms. Alrisa Gardiner, Primary Health Care Manager with responsibility for the country’s EPI (Expanded Programme on Immunisation) programme.

Commenting on the achievement, Ms. Gardiner said, “Today was truly emotional.  This is the second time the TCI has won this award.  We have been working tirelessly to achieve these coverages.  We always boast of our good coverages, but we always wanted to do better because we know that there are children that we are missing.  Every missed child is an opportunity for the importation of a vaccine-preventable disease such as measles to arrive on our shores.  I quote one of our advisors saying “Vaccine-preventable diseases don’t need visas and passports to travel”. 

This award is not final.  We must continue working to maintain these high coverages and work even harder to make our disease surveillance system stronger to detect any suspected cases.  I must thank the government of the TCI, past and present for always keeping the EPI programme at the forefront of their agenda; the protection of our most vulnerable is paramount.  Secondly, I wish to thank the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Human Services and the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation Representative for the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos for their unwavering support; no request to strengthen and improve our programme is denied.  Great things happen when we have great support. 

Thirdly, I wish to thank the hardworking Public Health Nurses, nursing, and support staff of the Primary Health Care Unit for their hard work and dedication to achieving our goals for 2022.  You are the backbone of this programme and I salute you.  Finally, I wish to thank the parents who believe in this public good.  Thank you for prioritising your children’s health and wellness and understanding the importance of protecting them from the unknown”.

 Commenting on the award, “the Minister of Health and Human Services – Hon. Shaun D. Malcolm expressed his elation over such a prestigious achievement.  He expressed his profound gratitude and thanks to the Primary Health Manager Nurse Alrisa Gardiner and her team for the hard work they do on a daily basis, and also stated that this award is a testament to their unwavering commitment to the Immunisation Programme and Primary Healthcare in general in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  He also thanked the Permanent Secretary Mrs. Desiree Lewis, Deputy Permanent Secretaries Ms. Renessa Williams and Ms. Tamera Howell-Robinson, and the Chief Medical Officer –Dr. Nadia Astwood for their leadership and management within the Ministry on a daily basis”.

While vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, polio and diphtheria have not been seen in the TCI for many years, the threat of importation of these diseases is real.  We note with COVID-19 how easily diseases can enter countries through travel and spread and how it can affect our population.

If you are uncertain about your child’s immunization status, please visit any of the government operated Primary Health Care Clinics and talk to your Public Health Nurse.  For more information call 649-338-5469.

Let us continue to keep the TCI, VPD free!

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Health

Deaths due to HIV/AIDS down 50 percent as World Aids Day marked Dec 1

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Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

 

December 5, 2023 – Deaths due to HIV/AIDS have been cut dramatically by fifty percent in the past thirteen years and on December 1, which is the annual commemoration of World AIDS Day, the World Health Organization called on communities to stand up to reduce the risks even further.  The 2023 theme is “Let Communities Lead” as a testament to the notion, shared by the WHO, that “we can end AIDS with communities leading the way.”

In the past five decades, treatment surrounding AIDS has increased exponentially and stigma is decreasing. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by 69% since the peak in 2004 and by 51% since 2010. In 2022, around 630,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses worldwide, compared to 2.0 million people in 2004 and 1.3 million people in 2010.

“Much more than a celebration of the achievements of communities, it is a call to action to enable and support communities in their leadership role,”  the WHO encourages.

The WHO is now focused on spreading awareness about the status of the pandemic and encouraging progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care around the world.

Locally, among the events planned in the Turks and Caicos Islands is the annual Surf and Turf Horse Racing night on Friday 8th December at Opus Wine Bar and Grill, residents are invited for an evening of food, luck, and chances. All proceeds go towards the Turks and Caicos AIDS Awareness Foundation and Edward Gartland Youth Center.

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Health

What TCI Ministry of Health says about World AIDS Day 2023 under the theme: “Let Communities Lead”  

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#TurksandCaicos, December 5, 2023 – World AIDS Day is observed annually on December 1st, dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic and mourning those who have died from the disease. It is also an opportunity to show support for people living with HIV and to promote the importance of community-driven efforts in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

HIV remains a major global public health issue, having claimed 40.4 million [32.9–51.3 million] lives so far with ongoing transmission in all countries globally; with some countries reporting increasing trends in new infections when previously on the decline. There were an estimated 39.0 million [33.1–45.7 million] people living with HIV at the end of 2022.

In the Latin American and Caribbean region, around 2.5 million people are living with HIV. In 2022, approximately 130,000 people acquired the virus, and 33,000 lost their lives due to AIDS-related causes. There is no cure for HIV infection. HIV infection has become a manageable chronic health condition, enabling people living with HIV to lead long and healthy lives.

HIV is a preventable disease. The risk of HIV infection can be reduced by:

  • Using a male or female condom during sex. Condoms are readily available from the Ministry of Health, Primary Care Clinics and other outlets free of cost
  • Being tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections regularly
  • Using harm reduction services for people who inject and use drugs
  • Doctors may suggest medicines and medical devices to help prevent HIV, including antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), including oral pre-exposure prophylaxis
  • ARVs can also be used to prevent mothers from passing HIV to their children.

People taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) and who have no evidence of virus in the blood will not pass HIV on to their sexual partners. Access to testing and ART is an important part of preventing HIV.

Commenting on the importance of observing World AIDS Day, the Minister of Health and Human Services – Honourable Shaun D. Malcolm emphasized that “On this World AIDS Day, the global community comes together under the theme “Let Communities Lead” to emphasize the pivotal role communities play in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Recognizing the power of collective action, this year’s focus is on empowering and amplifying the voices of communities affected by HIV/AIDS. Minister Malcolm is appealing to all residents of the TCI to play their part in the fight against HIV/AIDS and to work together as one”.

Communities are the heartbeat of the response to HIV/AIDS, fostering support networks, reducing stigma, and providing vital education. This approach aligns with the vision of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which underscores the importance of community-led initiatives in their commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic. Community leaders and civic societies can lead this charge by:

  • Helping to reach vulnerable, stigmatized and other difficult-to-reach populations;
  • Speaking out and assist in combating stigma and discrimination to ensure that everyone feels safe to access HIV services;
  • Reaching out to key and vulnerable populations and assist them to access HIV services when needed;
  • Ensuring that adolescents, youth at risk, pregnant women and infants receive adequate care that incorporates HIV;
  • Supporting health workers to provide HIV services to everyone in the community.

To commemorate World AIDS Day, we invite you to explore PAHO’s dedicated campaign page https://www.paho.org/en/campaigns/world-aids-day-2023″>here, where you can find resources, stories of resilience, and information on how communities across the globe are leading the charge against HIV/AIDS. Let us stand united, hand in hand with communities, as we strive for a world where no one is left behind in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Ministry of Health and Human Services is encouraging everyone to wear red on 1 December 2023 to show solidarity, raise awareness, and honour those affected by HIV/AIDS.

HIV testing and counselling is available at the Primary Health Care Clinics across the Turks and Caicos Islands. Follow the Health Promotion and Advocacy Units Facebook page for additional information on https://www.facebook.com/tcihealthpromotions/.

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Caribbean News

CARPHA Remembers Former PAHO Director Emeritus – Dr. Carissa Etienne as a “Tireless Advocate for Regional Solidarity”

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Port of Spain, Trinidad. 01 December, 2023: It is with profound sadness and shock that I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends, people of Dominica, the Caribbean Community and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), on the untimely passing of PAHO Director Emeritus, Dr. Carissa Etienne.

Dr. Etienne’s contributions to public health in the Americas were not only significant, but also transformative.  Her leadership and unwavering commitment to our Caribbean Community’s collective pursuit of healthier people, healthier spaces and a healthier Caribbean were a source of inspiration to many.  Dr. Etienne was a tireless advocate for The Americas’ regional solidarity, for she knew that was the only way to address the glaring inequalities that exist here.

She was the Director at PAHO for most of the life of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and under her leadership, CARPHA graduated from the PAHO Biennial Work Programme (BWP) arrangement to having framework agreements.

PAHO funded many of the programmes that are difficult to attract support, like the Caribbean Regulatory System (CRS) and the Medicines Quality Control and Surveillance Department (MQCSD), which are important services for the Region to ensure the quality of medicines.  Under Dr. Etienne’s leadership, PAHO also funded non-communicable disease interventions, another area that does not attract large pots of funding, although the number one cause of deaths in the Caribbean region. 

During the Pandemic, CARPHA worked with PAHO to fund the downpayments to give 12 Member States access to COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX to the tune of US$2.6 million.

Dr. Etienne will be remembered as a true Caribbean lady who worked with great dedication and focus throughout the horrible COVID-19 period and right up to her last working day at PAHO.

During this challenging time, we pray that God will give strength to Dr. Etienne’s family, friends, and colleagues.  CARPHA cherishes the memories of her remarkable contributions to the well-being of individuals and communities throughout the Americas, but especially the Caribbean.

The CARPHA Executive Management and staff stand in solidarity with our Caribbean Community as we mourn the loss of a visionary leader. 

 

Dr. Joy St. John

Executive Director, CARPHA

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