The government increased prevention efforts. According to the Ministry of National Security, the 2017 budget for anti-trafficking efforts was 330,430 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($122,380), compared to 109,410 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($40,520) in 2016 and 66,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($24,440) in 2015. In addition, social services for victims came out of the violence against women budget of the gender affairs department. The Ministry of National Security also relied on in-kind donations from businesses for print material and public service announcements. All government agencies, however, cited lack of finances as a key deficiency in increasing anti-trafficking efforts. Barbuda, the smaller sister island to Antigua, was decimated by the passage of Hurricane Irma in September, which placed a strain on already limited government resources.
The Trafficking in Persons Prevention Committee (TPPC), the coordinating body for anti-trafficking efforts, was chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of National Security and Labor. The TPPC, which included representatives from various government agencies and one NGO, continued to oversee implementation of the 2016-2018 national action plan. The government established a new working-level anti-trafficking unit within the Ministry of National Security, which comprised a victim care and support officer, an administrative assistant, an accounts officer, a communications officer, and a filing clerk. Authorities noted the unit improved coordination and efficiency of response efforts to trafficking.
The government increased awareness activities by producing two public service announcements and placing several billboards across the country. In September 2017, the government conducted a week of prevention activities in collaboration with NGOs and media outlets. The government also designed and presented plays at five schools. The gender affairs department included trafficking awareness training in its gender-based violence awareness sessions in ten communities, as well as in a special training session for government workers.
The government had not published its 2017 annual report on anti-trafficking efforts by the close of the reporting period. The government created and implemented a new database, managed by the anti-trafficking unit, to better track trafficking-related data across the government; participating authorities noted this database improved coordination and documentation. The government also conducted anti-trafficking training with labor inspectors, labor unions, and TPPC members. The government operated a gender-based violence hotline that could handle the reporting of trafficking and assisting victims. Through its public awareness campaigns across Antigua, the government made modest efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.