The first case of HIV/AIDS was recorded in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), in 1984 and up to the end of 2022, there were 860 HIV/AIDS related deaths.
Health statistics also show the cumulative total from 1984 to 2020 at 1772, while SVG’s AIDS rate is oscillating around one percent of the population.
The infectious disease specialist said that of the 1772, males represent 1088; female are 666; while in 18 cases, the gender was not specified.
“We have never gone above 1.5 percent and if you were to put things into perspective, Haiti has about 10% of their population with HIV/AIDS…,” Dr. Jose Melissa Davy, Infectious Disease Specialist told SEARCHLIGHT recently.
Dr. Davy is also a Care Co-ordinator for HIV/AIDS and the Focal Point for Tuberculosis (TB), and all the Neglected Tropical Diseases.
She said that while one death from HIV/AIDS, or one case is serious, local statistics in terms of prevalence, is similar to many other Caribbean countries except for Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), and the Bahamas which is around two percent.
Giving the OECS perspective, Dr. Davy said SVG has always led in terms of most patients in care and most patients on antiretroviral drugs. Currently there are about 424 persons on treatment.
“I think this was because of our robust testing initially and the reason why I can probably stand by that- I am thinking that if we had more persons out there who aren’t tested they would have showed in the hospital by now just by the sheer course of the how the disease operates because if you go untreated for a while obviously you are going to get sick,” Dr. Davy said.
She added that statistics are not very accurate when it comes to the homosexual and bi-sexual population, because persons are not always truthful when asked.
“It’s not like some societies where they freely speak; it’s getting a bit better because I think a study was done for them and some numbers were populated…,” explained Dr. Davy.
Encouraging persons to get tested, Dr. Davy said the hesitancy in persons finding out their HIV/AIDS status is other persons knowing, but if you are not tested, you get ill and end up in hospital, or start losing weight and getting lesions and persons are going to “su-su” anyway.
“So would you prefer to get tested, know your status, remain healthy and they are still guessing, or you would prefer to get sick and possibly die just because you didn’t get tested? she questioned.
“HIV has been converted into a chronic illness like diabetes and high blood pressure and if you ask me, the diabetics seem to have more complications than HIV aids patients,” Dr. Davy said.
She is encouraging persons who want to have sexual encounters with people they meet that there is nothing wrong with both persons getting tested before intercourse.
“Don’t take things for granted. Not because somebody looks healthy it means that they are, so test before you have sex and if you happen to have sex and you are not tested, use a condom all the way through because not only HIV, there are other diseases out there as we are seeing an increase in STDs…I don’t know what COVID did,” Dr. Davy commented.
In 2022, 42 percent of the persons with HIV/AIDS were between 17 and 29 years old.
“So that is the age group that needs attention, those coming out of school and college,” the medical doctor said.
She pointed out that mother to child transmission is almost at zero with the last baby being five-years-old, and they are trying to get it to zero percent, but that is a complicated process.
She also noted that there is an increase of trichomoniasis and gonorrhoea cases in SVG. With these diseases, a lot of people are asymptomatic so when persons have these infections, several other health problems can arise.
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