More Vincies getting tested
August 31, 2007

More Vincies getting tested

More Vincentians are voluntarily being tested for HIV, recently released numbers show. In 2006, there was a close to seventeen percent increase over 2005.

In 2005, some 6052 persons had HIV antibody tests done, while 7057 persons had the test done in 2006.{{more}}

AIDS Secretariat Director, Dr Del Hamilton, told SEARCHLIGHT that she is confident that 2007 figures will show another significant jump.

“There is increased awareness; more and more people are now seeing the benefit of being tested,” Dr Hamilton said.

The physician said that previously, the prevailing attitude was that “Whatever I die from, I die from.” That, she said, is changing.

“They are being educated, and so they know that while there is no cure, treatment is available that can control the amount of copies (virus) in the body, which can significantly prolong their lives,” Dr Hamilton said.

She, however, told SEARCHLIGHT that there remains a huge problem with stigma and discrimination, which is adversely affecting the Secretariat’s societal impact.

“People are scared to be tested, to find out they are positive, because they know that once it becomes known, they will be discriminated against in society,” Dr Hamilton said.

According to the 2006 National Aids programme report, “Some acts of discrimination among HIV clients include: loss of jobs, denial of housing, and expulsion from school.”

Dr Hamilton said that the AIDS Secretariat is working closely with lawmakers to put in place strong laws which will prohibit discrimination.

“Stigma and discrimination continue to play a big part in the spreading of the disease,’ she said.

In 2006, 82 persons tested positive for HIV, which is up from 62 in 2005.

Since 1984, there have been 940 confirmed cases of HIV in St Vincent and the Grenadines and 468 deaths as a result of the disease.(KJ)