Providenciales, TCI, November 30, 2016 – World AIDS Day is here again and the Turks and Caicos will join the rest of the world to remember persons who have lost the fight and persons living with HIV as a country. We also pause to consider the advances made in HIV treatment, management and research. The need to break the back of HIV infection within the TCI is paramount. Prevention is still the master key to ending AIDS in our beautiful by nature islands. The theme for World AIDS Day this year is “Getting to Zero New Infections and Deaths Fighting Stigma and Empowering People”.
We have come a long way and much has been done and the number of reported newly diagnosed HIV infections have decreased but, is this a true picture? Are people testing to ensure that they know their HIV status? To date for 2016 there have been 17 newly diagnosed cases of HIV. While that may appear small in number, think about our small population. Currently, there are 229 positive persons of which 103 are males and 126 are females in the national programme. This does not include persons who are treated in the private sector or overseas.
The Turks and Caicos has committed to ensuring that 90 percent of the country’s population is tested for HIV, 90 percent of persons found to be positive are linked to care and start treatment and 90% of persons are virally surpassed meaning that persons have a viral load that is undetectable by the year 2020. This is achievable with everyone making it their business to get tested. Turks and Caicos, we need you to end AIDS by 2030.
HIV treatment and care is now being integrated into the Primary Health Care setting, both public and private. Doctors in both the public and private sector have been trained to manage HIV in their settings. Therefore, someone with an HIV diagnosis has choices. Persons who are HIV positive are urged to seek regular medical attention, just as persons who have hypertension or diabetes check their doctors regularly, so should someone with HIV.
However, problems and challenges remain with HIV for various reasons. Key populations that are of a challenge are sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM). That is because these groups of persons are not readily identifiable. You may know that someone behaves like they are an MSM or a sex worker but did they tell you that? There is the challenge of stigma and discrimination, while less than previous years, still exists. We must tackle these challenges and we must do it together to achieve an AIDS free society. As a part of the way forward, the TCI government has strengthened legislations and programmes to ensure goals and targets are achieved. Let us stop any further stigma and discrimination of HIV and empower persons living with HIV to have meaningful, productive and fulfilling lives
I call on ALL citizens, Faith Base Organizations, local and international businesses and every Ministry and Department of Government to do their part to develop and encourage a culture for health screening of which HIV is apart. HANDS UP for HIV PREVENTION.
For more information on HIV and HIV Prevention contact the Health Promotion and Advocacy Unit on 3382772. World AIDS Day activities will follow.