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More Money, Extended Services & Support for Mental Health approved at TCI Cabinet

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By Deandrea Hamilton & Dana Malcolm

Editorial Staff

 

#TurksandCaicos, July 25, 2022 – The Mental Health and Substance Dependence Department of the Turks and Caicos Islands Government TCIG has been approved for more financial resources and now, added to the areas of support under the National Health Insurance Plan are psychiatric care and medication for individuals clinically diagnosed as in need of mental health treatment.

The approvals came in the July 8th Cabinet meeting and have the potential to radically impact, for the better, the well-being of those in the islands struggling with mental health issues.

The approvals follow a tragic and heart breaking incident in June where a young man, Garrick Tucker, died in a car accident after his mother repeatedly warned that her son was acting erratically and sought help from the department of Health and Human Services and the police but did not receive it.

The Government says the extra money for the Mental Health Department will be reallocated from the Primary Health Care Department.  They say this will allow an increase in mental health support across the islands.  The increase is much needed as several calls have come from Islanders this year alone in regards to suspected mentally ill people around them who need help.  The government did not however indicate whether this boost to the Department will be permanent.

In addition to the extra money the TCIG has approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Health and the National Health Insurance Board to cover the costs of psychiatric medications for persons with mental health issues across the TCI.  The decision will reduce the cost of psychiatric medications making them more accessible to residents on the islands.

These upgrades to the mental health services on the islands come as the government puts the finishing touches on its own mental health clinic to be located in Grand Turk.  The facility is almost completely staffed.

Currently mentally ill individuals who need rehabilitation or are criminally incarcerated are sent to either Jamaica or the UK.

Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health indicated during a press conference in June that with the construction of the mental health facility “we would be able to bring home many of our residents treated overseas.”

The new facility is slated to be up and running by the end of the year.

Health

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

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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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Education

Discriminatory MonkeyPox name to be retired

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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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Health

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

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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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