Excellency Nicole Avant, newly appointed Ambassador of the United
States to The Bahamas speaks at a VIP reception at the 2009 Red Rose
Ball at the Radisson Our Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island. Photo: Derek
Avant’s Remarks at
The Red Rose
November 7, 2009, at 7:20 p.m.
Mrs. Odette Knowles,
Mrs. Jasmin Shirlee,
Sponsors of the Red Rose Ball,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure and honor
to attend the 10th annual Red Rose Ball. This is my
first trip to Grand Bahama, and I am thrilled to finally have the opportunity
to begin visiting the beautiful Family Islands. This is also my
first Ball in The Bahamas, and I am so glad to use this opportunity
to promote the education and prevention of HIV/AIDS in this country.
This issue is near to my heart and is also an important objective of
the Obama Administration.
While preparing to assume my
new role as Ambassador, I was surprised and saddened to learn that there
are nearly7500 known individuals in The Bahamas that are currently infected
with the HIV virus or have contracted AIDS. There is an urgent,
world-wide need for programs and initiatives that support people living
with AIDS and their families. The U.S. applauds the Ministry of
Health, National HIV/AIDS Program, AIDS Foundation and Bahamian non-governmental
organizations for their tireless work to address this issue right from
the beginning. Their contributions have significantly decreased
the overall HIV incidence rate in The Bahamas, improved overall access
to health care and reduced the odds of mother-to child HIV transmission.
I am pleased to learn of the recent establishment of HIV rapid testing
centers in New Providence and Grand Bahama. I am also encouraged to
learn of public-private partnerships that reduce the stigma and discrimination
so commonly associated with this terrible disease.
The U.S. is committed to supporting
HIV/AIDS projects in The Bahamas. The fight against global HIV/AIDS
is central to my country’s foreign policy and to our global health
agenda. President Obama’s Global Health Initiative is a continuation
of my country’s leadership in the global effort to address health
priorities like HIV/AIDS. The U.S. Government understands that
the majority of countries hardest hit by the epidemic often do not have
the capacity to do as much as they would like– particularly with respect
to financing. This is why we are committed to working as supportive
partners in helping countries build their capacity to respond.
To that end, an important role
in our partnership with The Bahamas is the President’s Emergency Plan
for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR. The Ministry of Health recently
signed on to a five-year joint strategic plan through PEPFAR to build
a sustainable, national HIV
/AIDS response in The Bahamas. U.S.
health experts will work hand-in-hand with government officials, civil
society, the private sector and community leaders to help them in their
efforts to plan, oversee and manage HIV/AIDS prevention programs; deliver
quality services, and ultimately, finance health programs. We hope
that these resources will have a cumulative, lasting impact on the health
system to improve access for all Bahamians, especially on the Family
My government, through The
Ambassador’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Program, has already partnered with
the Ministry of Health and Bahamian HIV/AIDS non-governmental organizations
to address the unique challenges The Bahamas faces in its struggle against
HIV/AIDS. In 2008 and 2009, we supported peer training workshops
to combat stigma and discrimination with the Youth Ambassadors for Positive
Living; we also partnered with the AIDS Foundation to create public
service announcements targeting young people in The Bahamas. In
2010, the Ambassador’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Program will provide at
least $26,000 in support for these organizations once again as well
as the Ministry of Health’s National HIV/AIDS center.
The successful grantees have
proposed some very exciting projects that place a focus on adolescents
and youth, the fastest growing segment of the population affected with
HIV/AIDS. Stay tuned for some excellent peer educator workshops,
an adolescent support program, a stigma and discrimination-themed youth
rally and concert as well as a short public service announcement targeting
Programs like these are symbols
of the strong partnership between the United States and The Bahamas
in our mutual goal to educate the public about HIV/AIDS and provide
help to those in need. The U.S. Embassy looks forward to supporting
more initiatives in The Bahamas.
I would like to conclude by
thanking the corporate sponsors tonight, as well as the organizers of
the Ball, for their enormous contributions towards this effort.
As a businesswoman, I value and wholeheartedly support private sector
engagement as an important tool in addressing such a critical issue
such as HIV/AIDS. Your generosity has an impact beyond simply
funding an initiative. You directly affect a person’s quality
of life through the programs and support structures made possible by
your donations. Your efforts may directly affect the decisions
that young people make with regards to HIV and AIDS prevention.
Thank you for all that you do to support your communities and The Bahamas.
(Photos) The Red Rose Ball Committee delivers A Night at the Taj Mahal, India
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