By John Denny

Nevis Reporter

(Charlestown, Nevis) – The Nevis HIV/AIDS Unit is looking for sponsorship to have an island testing day every three months, according to Acting National Coordinator Nicole Slack-Liburd.

“Our testing day at the Villa was a success,” said Mrs. Liburd. “We had about 70 people get tested, but this is expensive and we are looking for private and corporate sponsorship to help us keep doing this. Our staff and volunteers worked very hard to make this happen and I want them to know how much it was appreciated.”

The Unit was very grateful of the support from the NIA and the various private donors. Carino was the major sponsor and Cable and Wireless gave out $10 top-ups to everyone tested. Some had to be turned away because the showed up after closing time, she said.

Some of the expenses incurred by the Unit were $2,000 for 100 rapid tests, $1,000 in food for the volunteers and $1,500 for condoms.

“We are always running out of condoms,” said Mrs. Liburd. “People here in Nevis only want the good ones, Roughriders and Barebacks, so that is what we carry. We go through quite a few and it would be very helpful if someone from the private sector could help us with this and some of our other expenses.”

Some of the other expenses were $700 for the tents used, $150 in ice and water for those receiving the tests and the 16 volunteers. There were also various expenses for promotional and miscellaneous items.

“We would like to do a testing day every three months if we could get the sponsorship,” said Mrs. Liburd. “The more often we do this, the more people that will be tested and that can only help reduce the spread of HIV.”

Anyone wanting information about getting tested or would like to sponsor the Unit can call them at 469-8010 or email them at nacu@niagov.com

Minister of Health in the NIA, Hon. Hensley Daniel, stamped his approval on the Voluntary Counseling and Testing. He said the activity hosted by the Nevis HIV/AIDS Unit in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Private Sector, placed the onus on individuals to know their health status.

“This VCT approach is good since it provides an opportunity for persons to monitor on a regular basis their HIV/AIDS status: Prevention must begin before HIV prevalence grows to measurable levels,” said Minister Daniel. “VCT helps us to pause and check our risky behaviors. When a test comes out negative, it is an opportunity to maintain sexual behavior that will ensure that the tests continue to be negative.”

The Minister regarded VCT as an imaginative approach to the reduction of HIV/AIDS infections and told the people of Nevis that they could all do something about the disease if they used the approach of the legal profession – innocent until proven guilty (Positive until proven negative).

Voluntary Testing and Counseling is an essential link between HIV prevention, HIV care and HIV support, Minister Daniel said. He also spoke of the need for abstinence.

“We ought to pay attention to abstinence, nothing is wrong with abstinence from sex. It is still the safest way to prevent HIV/AIDS. Behavior change is necessary and this must be reflected in the reduction of sexual partners so as to reduce the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS,” he said.

The NIA currently spends $4,000 per person monthly on treatment for persons with the disease.