By BABATUNDE ASIFAT

Trainee Reporter Nevis

As persons joined the world’s community in honouring all those who died through HIV/AIDS and those affected by the AIDS pandemic, a Memorial Candle Lighting Ceremony was held at the new park adjacent to the Nevis Cultural Centre opposite St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Charlestown .The event was coordinated by the HIV/AIDS Coordinating Unit, Nevis and The Department of Social Development.

Nadine Caines, an Education Officer at the HIV/AIDS Coordinating unit disclosed that the number of men being treated for HIV/AIDS in Nevis was seven while the women were eight. She also disclosed that to date 23 persons have died from HIV/AIDS on the island and that between 1987 and 2007, there has been 55 reported cases of HIV positive persons. She however noted that only one child may be living with HIV.

At the Ceremony Caine revealed the change in trend of the infected women to men. “In the past years, the number of men infected was higher than that of the women. Now the trend is changing that it shows a dramatic and constant increase in the number of women living with HIV/AIDS in Nevis.” she said

“Women of colour around the world are becoming infected more than men, women who live in Africa, women who live in America, women who live in the Caribbean,” Caines lamented.

“Even though our statistics may seem small, remember that our population size is also very small.  Most of Nevis citizens take their HIV test abroad, in places like Antigua, New York, Puerto Rico, Barbados,” she stated.

Caines also expressed concerns over the challenge posed by offshore HIV/AIDS tests“It is very difficult for us to capture the true number of infected persons living in Nevis and seeking care here in our island.”

She furthered when she presented an up to date overview of the regional HIV/AIDS statistics in the Caribbean “An overall estimate of 27,000 people became newly infected with HIV in 2006 . HIV/AIDS also claimed 19,000 lives in the Caribbean in 2006, making it one of the most leading causes of death among adults aged 15-44 years” she said. Cadine said unsafe sex between men is believed to only account for about 1/10 of reported HIV cases in the region”

Caines continued”As of 2004 more than 440,000 people were already living with HIV in the Caribbean. With an average prevalence of 2.3% for adult HIV cases, the Caribbean became the second most affected region in the world next to Sub-Sahara Africa” She said . Caines also mentioned that HIV transmission in the Caribbean is occurring largely through heterosexual (man/woman) intercourse with almost 2/3 of all HIV cases attributed to that mode of transmission.

Hensley Daniel, Minister reponsible for Health who also spoke at the Candle Lighting ceremony mentioned that the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean was driven by social-cultural norms which also encouraged multiple partners and non-involvement of fathers in parenting.

“I have had opportunities to attend workshops. People are aware of the knowledge but behaviour is not matching knowledge. Abstinence should be top on the list of priorities,” Daniel told participants at the ceremony.

Earlier that day, Daniel had officiated at a closing ceremony where several youths drawn from Nevis schools received certificates after been equipped with performing arts skills. That enabled them to create and pass messages on about social issues. Among these includes issues on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.