HIV/AIDS co-ordinator urging persons to get tested for HIV
Winfield Tannis-Abbott
Press Release
February 17, 2023

HIV/AIDS co-ordinator urging persons to get tested for HIV

Persons who do not want to get tested for HIV/AIDS for fear of testing positive do not have to worry as continuing medical advances in medication have allowed HIV/AIDS to be seen as a chronic disease.

This is the word from Winfield Tannis-Abbott, the National AIDS Co-ordinator for Public Sector Entities at the Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment.

“People don’t die from HIV. As soon as your result is a positive result confirmed, you go straight on what we call ARVs, antiretroviral drugs,” he explained.

“Soon as you get on that and you get into the support group called Care SVG if you choose to, we will encourage you to eat healthy, continue living your life but not continue living your life in the way you would have become HIV positive,” Tannis-Abbott said in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, February 15.

He said persons who have multiple sexual partners and contract HIV/AIDS are taught how to live with the disease and if they must have sex, they are encouraged to have only one sexual partner and to use a condom at all times.

“Living with HIV now is normal and there are many persons who are living with HIV in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, they are living normal lives, working and they are enjoying life as never before.”

Tannis-Abbott said the secretariat is noticing husbands and wives bringing their children to be tested, and persons as young as 14 being brought to be tested by a parent or guardian.

“We have been seeing people as old as 60, 70 years coming to have an HIV test done,” Tannis-Abbott told SEARCHLIGHT, while adding that over the past several months most people turning up to be tested are in the age group 17 to 29 years.

He said that on Tuesday February 14, Valentine’s Day, there were quite a number of young people showing up for testing and asking for information.

“I just want to encourage persons, if you are living a promiscuous life, do what is right, always use a condom; and for the women, I always say to them, don’t let the man put the condom on you, you walk with your own condom, ensure that the condom is good and you put the condom on the man.

“So, women, glove up before you love up,” Tannis-Abbott encouraged.

The National AIDS secretariat has been relocated from Largo Height to Richmond Hill and persons can get tested for HIV/AIDS and Syphilis free of cost in an “extremely confidential” space that is designed to make you feel safe and at home.

The office is located next to the St Vincent Grammar School lawn and the results of rapid tests done at the facility are provided in 15 to 25 minutes.

“I want to encourage everyone to come out and get tested especially if you are living a promiscuous life… especially if you are one that is having sex and don’t like using condoms,not only can you contract the HIV virus but other STDS and STIs as well,” Tannis-Abbott noted.

The office is open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. but Tannis-Abbott said staff will accommodate persons at other times as well because they believe that everyone should get tested and know their status.

“…if someone comes at 6.30 because she would have had a sexual encounter where the condom might have burst or where the person did not use a condom and she feels that her health is compromised, we will accommodate you.

“We do rapid HIV and syphilis tests, counselling and referrals and confidentially is 100 percent here at our testing site,” Tannis-Abbott assured.

The procedure involves a pre-counselling session before …”a finger prick is done and by 15/20 minutes you get back the result”.

“If the result is a reactive result, we will do another test, a Uni-Gold, and if that shows up as reactive, we will let you go to the lab and if you are afraid to go to the lab we will accompany you to the lab to do a phlebotomy,” Tannis-Abbott explained.

He said if the test is positive a person has the option to go into care and treatment at the infectious disease clinic and they can also join Care SVG, an organisation supporting people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Persons can call the HIV/AIDS secretariat at: 45-12489 for information.