World AIDS Day 2019 The Number of People living with HIV in SVG continues to Grow
November 29, 2019
World AIDS Day 2019 The Number of People living with HIV in SVG continues to Grow

World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1 each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. This year World Aids Day is being celebrated under the theme “Communities make the difference”. This theme recognizes the vital role that communities play in supporting the HIV/AIDS response.

The role of communities is essential in responding to the HIV/ AIDS epidemic. Their participation in community advocacy, outreach service delivery and participation in decision-making is necessary to shape every aspect of the AIDS response. Strong advocacy role by communities is needed more than ever to ensure that HIV/AIDS remains on the political agenda, that human rights are respected and that decision-makers and implementers are held accountable.

Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), communities can be described as peer educators/navigators, networks of people living with or affected by HIV, counselors community health workers, and civil society and NGO organizations. Their leadership and advocacy helps to ensure that the response remains relevant and grounded, always keeping people at the centre.

Community networks and civil society organizations are struggling to fund their work and often their voices are not included in policy dialogue, in particular the voices of key populations.

Research has shown strong evidence that community responses can produce positive results. The National HIV/AIDS Secretariat recognize that there is an urgent need for communities to be included in every aspect of the HIV/AIDS response and through funding from the Global Fund OECS TB/HIV elimination project we were able to strengthen partnership with civil society and NGO organization and built their capacity to support the national HIVAIDS response. You see Civil Society and NGO Organizations are critical in helping us reach some of the most vulnerable populations, they have the ability to reach individuals beyond the reach of government and other institutions. Communities do make the difference.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic is an ongoing public health concern in SVG. The number of people living with diagnosed HIV (PLWH) continues to grow, presenting challenges for prevention and clinical services. SVG is considered to be a low incidence HIV country. In recent years, the average annual number of new diagnosed HIV infections is 41. The prevalence (no. of cases diagnosed) of HIV in SVG is 1.47% of the population, while the incidence (no. of persons living with HIV) is 0.76% of the population.

 In 2018, 50 new HIV cases were reported; this represents a 28.2% increase over 2017. In 2017 and 2016, 39 and 36 new cases were reported respectively. Over the three-year period (2016 2017 & 2018) 125 new cases were reported. Males accounted for the majority of new infections over this period 65% n=81. Of the 150 new cases reported 2016-2018 46.4% (n=58) were within the age group 15-44 years.

 HIV cannot be cured, but people newly diagnosed with HIV who get treated and stay in care, can be expected to have near-normal life expectancy; without treatment, HIV infection advances in stages, and gradually destroys the immune system and eventually causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In 2018, 36 persons advanced to AIDS compared to 26 in 2017. The majority of all AIDS cases reported in 2018 are within that age groups 30-34 years 16.6% (n=6), 40-44 Years 16.6% (n=6), 45-49 years 16.6% (n=6) and 50-54 years16.6% (n=6) Cumulatively, the number of AIDS cases reported among these age groups represents 66.6% (24 cases).  

TIPS on HIV Sexually Transmitted infections Prevention

Remember anyone having sex without a condom is at risk for HIV and other Sexually transmitted infection (STI )

To reduce Risk of HIV and STI reduce that risk

-Have one sexual partner

- Get tested know your HIV status (Persons can access free confidential testing at The National HIV/AIDS Secretariat at the Infectious Disease clinic in Kingstown and at Health centers throughout St.Vincent and the Grenadines)

- Encourage your partner to get tested and know his/her status

- Use condoms correctly and consistently.

To achieve maximum protection condoms, must be used consistently and correctly.

The failure of condoms to protect against STI/HIV transmission usually results from inconsistent or incorrect use, rather than product failure. Inconsistent or nonuse can lead to STI acquisition because transmission can occur with a single sex act with an infected partner. Incorrect use diminishes the protective effect of condoms by leading to condom breakage, slippage, or leakage).

How to Use a Condom Consistently and Correctly

* Use a new condom for every act of vaginal, anal and oral sex throughout the entire sex act (from start to finish). Before any genital contact, put the condom on the tip of the erect penis with the rolled side out.

* If the condom does not have a reservoir tip, pinch the tip enough to leave a half-inch space for semen to collect. Holding the tip, unroll the condom all the way to the base of the erect penis.

* After ejaculation and before the penis gets soft, grip the rim of the condom and carefully withdraw. Then gently pull the condom off the penis, making sure that semen doesn’t spill out.
* Wrap the condom in a tissue and throw it in the trash where others won’t handle it.

* If you feel the condom break at any point during sexual activity, stop immediately, withdraw, remove the broken condom, and put on a new condom.

* Ensure that adequate lubrication is used during vaginal and anal sex, which might require water-based lubricants. Oil-based lubricants (e.g., petroleum jelly, shortening, mineral oil, massage oils, body lotions, and cooking oil) should not be used because they can weaken latex, causing breakage.)
Other ways to prevent HIV:

1. The use of Post exposure prophylaxis or PEP, which is a method of preventing HIV infection. It involves using a four-week course of the drugs used to treat HIV, taken very soon after a person may have been exposed to the virus. It is an emergency measure, rather than one to be used as a regular method of preventing HIV transmission.

2. The use of Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at very high risk of getting HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. When taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV. Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily PrEP only protects against HIV, so condoms are important for the protection against other STIs. Condoms are also an important prevention strategy if PrEP is not taken consistently.

By Sr. Ferosa Roache
National AID Secretariat