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St. Maarten’s Social Economic Council meets with AIDS Foundation

THURSDAY, 22 AUGUST 2013

PHILIPSBURG –The board of the Social Economic Council (SER) met with representatives of the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation last Thursday as part of its efforts to gain better insight on the role of NGOs in the community. SER was briefed on initiatives the foundation is engaged in.

Executive Director Rae Merlet outlined some of the outreach and support programmes of the foundation. SER was given information on the “Girl Power” programme which was developed for secondary school teenage girls. The programme focuses on gender equality and empowerment of teen girls. Treasurer Rajesh Chintaman stressed on the importance of the “Real Talk” programme, which will pilot later this year. Real Talk targets teenage boys, and focuses on teaching them discipline, having a good attitude and problem solving. Information on safe sex practices and sexually transmitted infections are also shared with both groups.

SER was also briefed on a number of other issues ranging from counselling, care and treatment of HIV patients and the cost of medicine for HIV/AIDS treatment to the Foundation’s plans to expand its work to include overall sexual reproductive health in the future. Foundation President Dr. Gerard van Osch highlighted the progress being made with the free rapid HIV testing and its public awareness programmes.

The National HIV/AIDS Workplace policy from the Department of Labour was also discussed. The Foundation stressed the importance for this policy to be implemented to provide a work environment that is free from harassment and/ or discrimination for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Van Osch also pointed out some of the challenges the foundation has encountered over the past years, mainly with its subsidy. SER officials said that this was indeed a point of concern and stressed the importance of NGOs having sufficient access to funds. Without a proper subsidy the foundation stressed that it would become more difficult to consistently carry out certain projects and build on the gains already made against HIV/AIDS in the community.

It was noted that the NGO’s together with the cooperation of businesses and government should continue to make a joint effort in the spirit of corporate social responsibility; it was stated in a press release issued by SER. The Social Economic Council emphasised the importance of working with young people and commended the Foundation for its efforts. SER provides government with advice on matters of socio-economic nature and it took the initiative to meet with various NGOs in the community.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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