BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day, “Know Your Status,” is a reminder to the world that the fight against HIV and AIDS begins with individuals being aware of their HIV status via testing, according to Minister of State with responsibility for Health, the Honourable Wendy Phipps. World AIDS Day is observed each year on Dec. 1.

“The theme reminds us that although 75 percent of the persons living with HIV are aware of their status, there are still far too many persons living with HIV who are (a) unaware of their status; and (b) not receiving treatment, care or prevention services,” Phipps said. “In 2017, 9.4 million people did not know they were living with HIV.”

This year’s observance has significant objectives, which the ministry will design activities around to achieve. The objectives are to remember those persons who lost their lives to HIV; acknowledge the progress made in response to the global epidemic; and renew the United Nations’ commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic.”

The minister described two additional significant goals: First, break down the barriers of stigma and discrimination that prevent persons from getting an HIV test. Second, sensitize people to the fact that confidential testing exists.

She expressed that presently there are approximately 36.9 million persons in the world living with HIV, with only about 21.7 million receiving treatment.

“In light of these global realities, the St. Kitts and Nevis Ministries of Health tress the need for each and every person to be tested for HIV, to know his or her status and if a positive diagnosis is confirmed, that he or she be linked to care, treatment and preventive services to stem the tide of deaths already associated with this dreaded crisis.”

Minister Phipps said based on the current picture of the Federation’s HIV status, it stands to reason that more has to be done in order for the country to realize the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) 90-90-90 targets and be on track to attain the global ambition of eliminating HIV by 2030.

The UNAIDS 90-90-90 initiative states that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their status, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

“It also means that we must do everything possible to educate our people about the prevention of HIV and the imperative for testing, treatment and immediate linkages to care following an HIV diagnosis,” Phipps concluded. “HIV/AIDS can happen to anyone, which makes it everybody’s business. HIV/AIDS affects all of us.”