By Floyd French

Observer Reporter

(Basseterre, St. Kitts) – The Fort Street Branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia will become a voluntary HIV/AIDS counselling and testing site on Friday, June 27. The Bank announced this regional initiative with Caribbean Broadcasting Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS in collaboration with the St. Kitts Ministry of Health at a media launch on June 12.

Country Manager for St. Kitts Scotia Bank, Mr. Dimitrios Adamopoulos, said that Scotia Bank branches in Antigua, Anguilla, Dominica, St. Lucia , Jamaica and St. Kitts will take part in providing voluntary HIV/AIDS counselling and testing to the public.

He underscored continued economic viability as a reason for Scotia BankÕs involvement in this project.

ÒI am persuaded of the link between the two and constantly it would be lethal to discuss in business and finance should we choose to turn a blind eye to HIV/AIDS given the potentially devastating impact of HIV on the absorption of financial resources be it man power, the redeployment of resources to attend to care and treatment of infected persons or losses in productivity.

ÒIn this light Scotia Bank has chosen to face the issue of HIV/AIDS head on and this is the reason for us gathering here today,Ó Mr. Adamopoulos added.

This Òlandmark decision,Ó according to the Country Manager, involves Scotia Bank branches taking part in Òa combined regional testing day, the first of its kind in the Caribbean.Ó

While the legal framework in St. Maarten does not allow for public visiting, those branches will demonstrate leadership and commitment through the testing of staff and emphasising public appeal for citizens to know their status.

Mr. Adamopoulos highlighted the social uneasiness over HIV/AIDS testing and reiterated the need to overcome stigma in that regard.

Voluntary HIV/AIDS counselling and testing seem to be favoured by citizens of St. Kitts-Nevis, according to Dr. Kathleen Allen Ferdinand, Chair of the National Advisory HIV/AIDS Council.

She said she was first a sceptic, but the feedback from exits poll done by the staff at the Ross University of Nursing has convinced her that the programme works.