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Just a few more days now for the Cuban Medical Brigade as Health struggles to find and keep staff



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


#TurksandCaicos, July 15, 2022 – After two years the Cuban Brigade is nearly ready to exit the island and will be leaving in a few days’ time; July 19 was revealed as the final day for the medical team from nearby Cuba which bolstered local medical staff during the earlier days of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Medical staff members are a hot commodity right now and small island states are struggling to keep nurses and doctors at home in the face of larger, richer countries dangling extremely lucrative salaries and career options in attempts to lure the professional out of the region.

It is working and the Turks and Caicos is no different.

“As soon as we recruit a new nurse we have a nurse that is leaving us,” said Dr Denise Braithwaite-Tennant, CEO of InterHealth Canada.

Minister of Health Jamell Robinson explained that while they had been recruiting it was a difficult process and they were hopeful that they would be able to fill their positions.

“Hopefully we do get the responses we need because there is a significant competition across the world for these types of professionals. Hopefully we’ve pitched the jobs and remuneration packages at a level that we will attract the persons we need to be able to fill these roles.”

He explained that people rescinding offers at the last minute was a problem for the Turks and Caicos as well.

“The deal is not done until the person is on the ground because we’ve made offers to people and then weeks before they are supposed to get on the ground they rescind.”

Dr. Braithwaite-Tennant explained why it was so difficult not only to get nurses specifically on-island but to keep them in the Turks and Caicos.

“Mainly they are leaving to be travel nurses in the United States which is commanding access to green cards and higher remuneration. Travel Nurses can earn between $4,000 to $5,000 a week so we are competing with that.”

Braithwaite-Tennant, who is native to Turks and Caicos thanked the soon to depart Cuban Medical Brigade for its service to the TCI during the pandemic. To replace them the TCI Hospitals is seeking 10 more full time specialty nurses.

“What this pandemic has shown us is that the capacity to access specialist nurses in the [local] community is not there.”

Dr. Braitwaite-Tennant said this could be dangerous in times of emergency, as the TCI uses overseas personnel to step in when their doctors go on leave.

“What happened during the pandemic is everyone held on to their specialists so we had doctors going months and months and months without being able to get leave. That’s not sustainable.”

She said to fix it they wanted to introduce medical interns to offset the workload and were recruiting aggressively to fill advanced posts as well.

In mental health at least things are looking up, Robinson explained most of the required staff for the Grand Turk Mental Health clinic had been sourced.

“A number of the personnel, I think about 80 percent of the people we wanted to hire, we’ve identified and they are in-country.”

Additionally the minister said they had good prospects for the Port Health Authority and recruitment was now closed. Describing it as a priority for the Health Ministry Robinson said.

“The next time we have a pandemic event we will have the personnel in place beforehand as opposed to trying to catch up to it after.”

The CEO of the hospitals thanked the community for its patience and reminded that some of the long wait times were a direct result of the staff shortages.


Using Artificial Intelligence to BOOST HIV/AIDS testing in remote areas; more people can live Healthy



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


November 30, 2022 – It’s no secret that today’s global population is one of the most connected and technologically savvy in history. It’s also true that more than a million of us are likely to catch HIV each year.  Thanks to medication the risk of dying from HIV/AIDS has decreased significantly from what it was forty years ago but treatment options depend upon HIV Positive individuals actually knowing they are ill.

Young people are especially vulnerable, the World Health Organization says Globally in 2019, an estimated 1.7 million adolescents (10-19 years old) were living with HIV and an estimated 190 000 were newly infected. Treatment and testing also have barriers including policies that require parental consent for services.

One new initiative created by UNICEF is using social media, artificial intelligence, and geo-mapping to change that.

The U-Test initiative aims to not only connect at risk youth to services and testing to help prevent the spread of the virus but give them the most simplified up to date information on AIDS and AIDS prevention.

Launched in January 2022 U-Test uses an algorithm to find young people on the internet and uses Whatsapp, Facebook and SMS messaging to deliver targeted HIV messaging.  It also gives them access to an online portal which allows them to complete a confidential self-screen questionnaire about HIV.  What happens next is only possible because of the extensive global connectivity available to 21st century residents.

“Those who are at the highest risk for HIV are linked with testing and encouraged to learn their HIV status. When appropriate, geolocalisation technology accurately maps healthcare options around them, connecting youth to the closest services.  U-Test’s technology can also connect users with youth-friendly counseling and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, which has been shown to reduce HIV acquisition by up to 90 percent,” UNICEF explains.

Behind the screens along with the AI, are real life health workers providing self-test kits and PrEP for the young people.

In Côte d’Ivoire where U-Test was rolled out, more than a million young people have been reached online and thousands have been tested in complete privacy.  Not only does the tech reach people in remote areas, it means more testing and more early detection giving many more people the chance at a healthy life.

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Discriminatory MonkeyPox name to be retired



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


November 30, 2022 – Mpox is what the Monkeypox disease will be called going forward according to the World Health Organization which decided on a rename citing incidents of racism. The announcement was made on Monday November 28th; three months after the WHO had announced their intent to seek the change.

“When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatizing language online, in other settings and in some communities was observed and reported to WHO.”

The organization explained. The names of the two clades were changed earlier this year as well. The two clades of Mpox had been named after the areas in which they were found, in the Congo Basin and West Africa.

“Consensus was reached to now refer to the former Congo Basin (Central African) clade as Clade one (I) and the former West African clade as Clade two (II),” the WHO said in August.

The changes come as the globe experiences its largest outbreak in history with thousands of cases across the globe in areas where the virus had never historically presented.

Mpox disease, formerly known as monkeypox disease, was named by scientists in 1970 after the virus which causes it which was first discovered in monkeys in 1958. While the disease has been renamed, the virus that causes it is still called monkeypox virus.

A virus and the disease it causes are separate entities, for example the Spanish Flu disease, is caused by an offshoot of the H1N1 virus and COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-Cov-2 virus While neither of these diseases are named after their viruses Monkeypox was.

It is now up to the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) to rename the virus.

Both Mpox and Monkeypox will be used simultaneously to refer to the disease for the next twelve months until monkeypox is totally phased out.

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HIV/AIDS no longer a death sentence; Drugs help and Proactivity best for sexually active Men



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


November 29, 2022 – Back in 2020 when Covid-19 began to shut down businesses and terror at the unknown virus was high, evidenced in supermarket rows over toilet paper and lockdowns I can remember asking my mother whether she had experienced anything of this scale before.  Her answer? ‘HIV/AIDS.’ Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system.  If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome

“It was terrible, people were just dropping dead, nobody knew what they had or what to do.” she said.

The sexually transmitted disease HIV first started appearing in 1981.  It spread rapidly with deadly, heartbreaking consequences.

That was forty one years ago.  Now, World AIDS day is celebrated each year on December 1st and while HIV/AIDS is considered a treatable and preventable disease, with verifiable reports that some people have even been cured of ‘terminal illness’, millions of people were consumed by the illness before scientists reached the breakthroughs which now allow patients to live productive lives.

Many of those lost to the HIV/AIDS were men and hundreds of thousands still contract the virus each year.

So how can you prevent contracting HIV/AIDS?  The Centres for Disease Control says

  • Abstain from sex
  • If you are sexually active limit your partners
  • Use physical protection (condoms) during sex
  • Don’t share needles

If you have had unprotected sex and think you may be HIV positive or you just want to be protected, you can take HIV prevention medicines such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).  You must start PEP within 72 hours after a possible exposure to HIV.

For those with a confirmed HIV diagnosis, the FDA says treatment is available.

“Treatment with HIV medicines is called antiretroviral therapy (ART).   ART is recommended for everyone with HIV.  It reduces a person’s viral load to an undetectable level.  Maintaining an undetectable viral load helps a person with HIV live a longer, healthier life.  People with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex.”

Men may shy away from having themselves examined by a doctor, but catching and treating HIV before it becomes AIDS is crucial and greatly lengthens one’s life expectancy.

If you have the virus there are ways to manage it and to keep your loved ones and sexual partners safe.

You can have a relatively normal life.  There is still hope.

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