Since 1988, the world has commemorated World AIDS Day on December 1st. The 2020 theme is “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility.” 2020 marks 35 years since Saint Lucia registered its first documented case of HIV.
According to UNAIDS 2019 figures, there are 38 million persons across the globe with HIV/AIDS. As of September 2020, in Saint Lucia, there are 834 persons known to be alive with HIV. Only 349 of those persons are taking treatment for HIV.
We have come a long way since 1985, from a period where the only treatment on offer was multivitamins. Now, we have anti-retroviral treatment, also known as HIV medication that allows persons who are infected with HIV to live well and live long. We have rapid testing for HIV. A finger prick, a few drops of blood and fifteen minutes is all it takes to determine whether you may be infected with HIV. Persons can get assessment and treatment at our public sexual and reproductive health clinics or privately, from physicians who are experienced in HIV management.
Testing can be requested at any of our Community Wellness Centres or at our partner civil society organizations such as United & Strong Inc. and the St. Lucia Planned Parenthood Association.
Testing is very important to you, for you to know where you are with HIV.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Are you sexually active?
Do you have unprotected sex?
When last did you do an HIV test?
When last did your sexual partner do an HIV test?
Have you talked about HIV with your sexual partner?
Are these questions and answers important to you?
I ask these questions to remind you that you have control over HIV.
You choose to test, to determine if you are infected or not. As a pregnant mother, you test because you do not want to infect your baby with HIV. You choose to test because if you are infected with HIV, you can get treatment. You choose to test because you want to live and live well for yourself, for your children and for your family.
While we have made strides in testing and treatment, stigma and discrimination regarding HIV continues. Remember, no one is immune to HIV. You do not get HIV from touching, kissing, hugging, handshakes, sharing food, sharing a seat, etc.
If you are sexually active and do not use condoms, you at risk for getting HIV. There is a well-known saying, “Man knows thyself”
You are responsible for yourself. Protect yourself.
If you have HIV and have not started treatment, we are available to get you started. Testing is free and treatment is free. If you have HIV and have not told your partner, protect your partner, use condoms. Tell your partner; they need to know; they need to get tested. This brings up another well-known saying, “You are your Brother’s Keeper”
Please hear and remember this, persons who are infected with HIV can live long, productive and healthy lives. So, this December 1st, 2020, pause for a moment. Think about HIV and what it means to you.
Let us all find our light in this continued fight against HIV.