The Bank of Nova Scotia, also known as Scotia Bank, sponsored for the first time a Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) Day for the Nevis HIV/AIDS Unit on Friday, June 25. The event was held from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the Hunkins Plaza, Charlestown. Free HIV testing and counselling were made available to the public. VCT Day activities were conducted in the area behind the bank in three stations separated By tents, thus provided a measure of privacy for the individuals being assisted. A laboratory was on site in its own station, allowing for test results within one hour. The expedited process made it easier for persons to ascertain their status. Passers- By were briefed By Maggie Liu, a Peace Corps volunteer, on how to use dental dams, which are used for oral sex. The dams are comprised of thin, elastic material, and were presented in banana, grape, mint, and strawberry flavours. The implement helps to prevent the spread of HIV By covering the entire genital area. Leaflets were available to educate persons on the importance of condom use, abstinence, and knowing the facts about HIV/AIDS. Nurse Eldina Farrell, Assistant Matron at the Alexandra Hospital and Advanced Trainer for VCT in St. Kitts-Nevis, explained that VCT is not an obligatory thing. “Nobody is forced to do it, people are responsible and they come out of their own will to get tested,” she said. The Assistant Matron said that every year people are persuaded to bring along their partners, friends, co-workers, and anyone else to get tested and as a result, know their status. From there, persons can work on their risk reduction plan. Farrell pointed out that people are finding it easier to get tested for HIV. “At first, persons were fearful and concerned. Persons now understand that if they are tested positive, they still can live a long healthy life, as there is a lot of care, treatment, and support available, so they are hopeful. … No longer is HIV a death sentence.” The nurse relayed that people trust them because they are professional and confidential health care providers. “They feel comfortable bringing their business to us,” she said. Health Planner in the Ministry of Health, Nicole Slack-Liburd, told this media house that National Testing Day (NTD) was being celebrating throughout the Caribbean region wherever Scotia Bank is located. The annual event, which takes place on or around June 25, began in 2008 via a partnership between the Caribbean Broadcast Media for HIV/AIDS, the Pan Caribbean partnership for HIV/AIDS, and Scotia Bank. “We have established a good relationship with Scotia Bank, not just for NTD but they are also a part of our workplace HIV/AIDS programme,” Slack-Liburd informed. “Traditionally, we would have a VCT outreach in December to coincide with World AIDS Day (December 1).” Although not limited to holding one VCT outreach every year, Slack-Liburd stated that the frequency of such events are dependent on the support received from the private sector. Once the private sector chips in, more outreaches could be held — even five in a year. She added that the government agency on its own “cannot afford to do that on a regular basis.” She also noted that in June 2007, VCT Day was held in commemoration of Fathers Day. Slack-Liburd encouraged persons to get tested at least once every year, especially those who are at high risk. Early detection means that treatment and support can be introduced, which will enable a person to enjoy a better quality of life. A total of 55 persons were tested on the event day. Slack-Liburd was pleased with the turnout, as it was in the usual range of 60-90 individuals. Sonia Scott, Secretary of the HIV/AIDS Unit, said that her organization will have a troupe for Culturama. For interested persons who want to play a part, registration forms are currently available at the Unit office located in the Spencer H. Howell Building (below the Charlestown Police Station). The fee is $30, and persons are asked to register before Friday, July 9, 2010. Positions are limited.