Free HIV testing done as Vincentians mark World AIDS Day for 2013
December 3, 2013
Free HIV testing done as Vincentians mark World AIDS Day for 2013

St Vincent and the Grenadines on Sunday joined the rest of the world in commemorating World AIDS Day, with a series of activities that began on Friday last week.{{more}}

Florence Olatunji, the new head of the local office of the Caribbean HIV and AIDS alliance (CHAA) told SEARCHLIGHT that 167 persons were counseled and tested for HIV over three days beginning on November 29.

“On Friday, counseling and testing was done at the Heritage Square in Kingstown, and on Saturday we were in Barrouallie, followed by Georgetown on Sunday, World AIDS Day.”

Olatunji said that the events are being done in collaboration with a number of organizations who are partners in the fight against HIV and AIDS, stigma and discrimination; the National AIDS Secretariat, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Planned Parenthood association and the Ministry of Health.

She pointed out that counseling was provided by CHAA and the Planned Parenthood Association, while testing was done by the National AIDS Secretariat during the exercises.

The administrator revealed that an estimated 649 Vincentians have been documented to be HIV positive, with 349 of these, currently registered in care and treatment.

She said that although these numbers may seem small, the chance that the true figure is higher is great, as there are many persons who are undocumented.

“World AIDS Day is the day when we kind of affirm, to let people know that HIV is still here among us, and this is the day that we promote the message that all are involved in this fight.

“Its not just relegated to one aspect of society, but is actually everybody’s business, and this is when we also let people know that we have to take it seriously whatever we do.

“We also remind people that it is everybody’s business and because it doesn’t have a face… we are to have compassion and to treat people with dignity and respect. And that speaks to reducing stigma and discrimination to zero, so that people can access services freely without the fear of someone pointing them out and treating them unfairly due to their HIV status,” Olatunji said.

World AIDS Day was first commemorated in 1988.(JJ)