March 18, 2011
Speaking Tuesday at a regional summit on HIV/AIDS, Bahamian Minister of Health Dr. Hubert Minnis said prevention efforts targeting undocumented immigrants are hindered by their fear of apprehension, language barriers, stigma, lack of economic power, and lack of awareness regarding at-risk behaviors.
Minnis was the keynote speaker at the Caribbean Regional HIV Prevention Summit on the Most At-Risk Persons and Other Vulnerable Populations, held in Nassau. He said other high-risk groups in the Bahamas include: young people, men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers, and people age 50 and older. While health care providers face "significant" challenges in trying to reach these groups, government efforts are helping them in many ways, he said.
"Our focus has always been on prevention of transmission of HIV and the comprehensive care of the individuals infected with HIV, so access to health care, regardless of immigration status, is a tenet of the Ministry of Health," said Minnis.
"Antenatal care, including the provision of antiretroviral therapy, is provided free of charge to all public patients," noted Minnis. "This has also been extended to all registered HIV-positive patients in both the public and private health care sectors."
The minister said the success of Bahamas' National HIV/AIDS Program, founded 23 years ago, is due to its focus on "oversight, planning, training, coordination and evaluation of the national response to HIV/AIDS." The Caribbean, he observed, is the "second-most HIV-affected region in the world."
The Ministry of Health co-sponsored the summit with the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.