In an effort to combat the rising rate of HIV infection in the Caribbean, a number of entities have come together to help more people get tested, as well as to offer advice about HIV and AIDS.
In Jamaica, the Bank of Nova Scotia in 2007 had what was called “Scotiabank HIV and AIDS Awareness Road Show” in the parish of St. Elizabeth.
Come June 27 this year, Scotiabank will be back at it, but this time it will be a Caribbean region affair. On that date, the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership (CBMP) on HIV/AIDS, the Bank of Nova Scotia and health organizations such as the Barbados Ministry of Health will be arranging for persons to be tested at various Scotiabank branches across the Caribbean. Islands taking part in the new pilot project include Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica, Anguilla, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis and St. Maarten.
The testing and counseling, which will be done by trained professionals will be done in private to ensure the confidentiality of the person being tested. This move is to help in educating, and hopefully preventing, the spread of HIV/AIDS. Studies have shown that efforts at prevention and improved treatment options result in people getting tested. Most people change their sexual behavior once they know their status. Early knowledge of one’s status also means earlier access to treatment.
According to avert.org, the number of persons infected with HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean was set at 230, 000 in 2007. Of this number some 17, 000 were new cases. According to some sources, the Caribbean now has the second-highest rate of infection in the world. Over two percent of the adult population in some of the larger islands are said to be living with HIV or AIDS.
The Ministry of Health statistics, which is available online, reports that between January 1982 and June 2007 there have been 12,063 reported cases in Jamaica.
Statistics also indicate that Haiti is the worst affected, with approximately 16,000 deaths from AIDS each year.
The impact of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean is far reaching. Not only is it placing a strain on already over-stretched medical systems in many of the islands, but in many cases children are the worst affected. Apart from sometimes becoming infected through mother-to-child transmission, many are abandoned, or orphaned due to the death of their parents. The stigma and discrimination still experienced by those affected by the deadly virus make it difficult for proper care to be given to children affected and infected.
To get persons to come out and be tested, the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership (CBMP) will be using print and television advertising to raise awareness about the program.
-Jessica McCurdy Crooks