St. Kitts and Nevis ready for ‘big day’ of HIV testing

From SKNIS

 

Basseterre, St. Kitts – This Friday health officials in St. Kitts and Nevis are expecting a huge turnout from locals wishing to know their HIV/AIDS status.

The date is being observed as the 2017 HIV Regional Testing Day (RTD) across the Caribbean, which has been organized annually for the last 10 years by LIVE UP: The Caribbean Media Alliance, with support from the Scotiabank and the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP).

Gardenia Destang-Richardson, coordinator of the National AIDS Programme, said the turnout in 2016 was very encouraging.

“Last year, we had a goal of 500 and we got about 582,” she said, citing the total number of persons tested during the week of June 20-24, which culminated at the RTD temporary testing site on Bank Street June 24. “This year, we are pushing to get 1,000 tested for [the month of] June.”

To achieve this goal, organizers from the Ministry of Health have identified three areas in St. Kitts and one in Nevis where free and confidential testing and counselling will take place. The Basseterre locations are at Independence Square, and the parking lots of Best Buy Supermarket at Buckley’s and RAMS Supermarket, Bird Rock. In Charlestown, a temporary testing location will be available at the front of the Nevis Island Administration building.

Destang-Richardson said the day is a “big day” as it marks 10 years of the regional call to action. A number of local businesses have pledged support to the initiative by donating vouchers, coupons, tickets and other free merchandise as giveaways. These include vouchers for breakfast, lunch and dinner; cell phone top ups; free medical, eye care or dental examinations; coupons for beauty products; scenic railway tickets; and much more. Every person who gets tested on June 30 will dip and is guaranteed to receive a token.

“There’s still some stigma attached to HIV,” Destang-Richardson said. “People are still afraid to know their HIV status and I think when you do it in a group, it gives that level of comfort where you think, oka,y everybody else is doing it, so it’s okay.”She added that sometimes everyone needs a little push to get tested. She expects that adding incentives will have a positive impact.

People are encouraged to call 467-1233, 1234 or 469-8010 for more information.