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Cuba offered on Thursday to build training centers for nurses to handle AIDS patients in Caribbean nations and provide antiretroviral drugs to fight the pandemic.

Cuba to help Caribbean fight AIDS
Source : provided by REUTERS ; Last Updated: 2004-07-15

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba offered on Thursday to build training centers for nurses to handle AIDS patients in Caribbean nations and provide antiretroviral drugs to fight the pandemic.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque made the offer at a one-day meeting with counterparts from the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

"From the social standpoint, the major challenge ahead of us is the fight against HIV/AIDS," Perez Roque said.

In contrast to other Caribbean countries, Cuba has contained the spread of the virus to 0.07 percent of its people through a controversial program that obliged patients to remain in institutions to obtain treatment.

In Haiti, the poorest nation in the region, 5.6 percent of the population has been infected, according to U.N. figures.

Cuba has developed cheap generic antiretroviral drugs and offered them to other developing nations and sent hundreds of doctors to work in other countries.

Perez Roque said economic ties between Cuba and the 15-member regional Caricom bloc, whose members include Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad, had not developed sufficiently, despite a trade agreement signed four years ago.

He thanked Caribbean nations for consistently opposing U.S. trade sanctions against Cuba and helping break the diplomatic isolation of the communist-run island sought by Washington.

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