PHILIPSBURG–The Health Ministry’s Collective Prevention Services (CPS) urges members of the community to practice safe sex during the Christmas holiday season.
CPS is also calling on the community to take time out to remember, pay respect and tribute to persons who have passed away from AIDS.
CPS’ message comes on the heels of World AIDS Day, which was observed on December 1 under the theme “Everybody counts. End AIDS.” The day provided an opportunity to increase awareness, education and a greater understanding of HIV as a global public health issue.
CPS said in a press release on Tuesday that there are many scientifically-proven prevention options that health services can offer to help people prevent HIV infection and protect their health. These measures include new options such as self-administered HIV testing, which can be done at home, and the availability of HIV testing in places other than health centres.
Two in 10 people with HIV in Latin America and four in 10 in the Caribbean do not know they have the virus, which represents an improvement over last year. Early diagnosis improves the quality of life of people with HIV and helps prevent new infections. To benefit from such, it is recommended that persons get tested.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in collaboration with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS UNAIDS, launched the report “HIV Prevention in the Spotlight – An Analysis from the Perspective of the Health Sector in Latin America and the Caribbean,” which analyses the progress made and the challenges faced by health systems in preventing HIV transmission.
The focus on HIV combination prevention, early detection and access to antiretroviral treatment are essential to end HIV transmission. Governments, health service providers, international organisations, civil society organisations, people living with HIV, key populations and other stakeholders should work together in the response to HIV.
The PAHO/UNAIDS reports indicate that expanding access to all HIV prevention options that are now available would reduce the number of new cases of HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean, which has remained at 120,000 every year since 2010.
According to the report and UNAIDS data, the majority (64 per cent) of new HIV cases occur in gays and other men who have sex with men, in sex workers and their clients, in transgender women, in people who inject themselves with drugs, and in couples belonging to those key population groups. In addition, one third of new infections occur in young people ages 15-24.
The report advocates what is known as the combination prevention approach, which is based on scientific evidence, respect for human rights and non-discrimination, and which includes three elements: offering a comprehensive package of biomedical interventions to users, promotion of healthy behaviours, and establishment of enabling environments that facilitate access to and use of prevention measures.
The AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean 2016, according to UNAIDS data, says an estimated 310,000 (280,000-350,000) people in the Caribbean were living with HIV as of 2016; Approximately 18,000 (15,000-22,000) new HIV infections occurred in the region.
Some 9,400 (7,300-12,000) people died from AIDS-related illnesses in the Caribbean. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of AIDS-related deaths in the region declined 28 per cent.
Treatment coverage reached 52 per cent (41-60 per cent) of all people living with HIV in the Caribbean and fewer than 1,000 new HIV infections occurred in children in the Caribbean.
There are incremental steps made in HIV which lead to some wins, but to guarantee 100 per cent it takes all persons to collectively work together in creating opportunities by means of providing the collected data, documenting and sharing on the various experienced scenarios to be used as input to improve or develop effective preventive programmes, services, treatment and management and to provide care.
The success is dependent on each one to comply and implement the advised preventive measures/tips and realise the necessary tasks/assignments.
CPS urges everyone to work along with this year’s World AIDS Day theme and says if there are additional concerns persons should consult with their family physician or the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation.