The Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister of Health in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA), delivered the following address marking the 32nd observance of World AIDS Day.
December 1st marks the 32nd year of World AIDS Day observance. Since 1988, activities have been focused on increasing awareness about HIV and AIDS. These activities aim to encourage persons to take action in prevention and control of HIV infection, celebrate successes achieved, and to remember and commemorate those who have passed.
This year the theme is “Communities make a difference.” It emphasizes the role that communities play in creating awareness, leading advocacy, addressing the challenges and barriers to care, securing funding and providing safe and supportive environments for those who are at risk and those living with HIV.
The goal to end HIV and AIDS is attainable and can be achieved through a strong community approach. Integration and collaboration of public and private sector partners are all required for the execution of a successful HIV/AIDS programme and to ultimately end this chronic infection as a public health problem by 2030, according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal target.
Our communities are evolving through globalization, technology, education and increase in self-awareness. Yet, there are various sectors within our population that are still being marginalized and therefore vulnerable to stigma and discrimination. The fear of reproach and identification, hinders persons and vulnerable groups from accessing the services for testing and care. Identifying these hidden cases then becomes an even bigger challenge for prevention and control.
To increase awareness this year, the HIV/AIDS programme through the Health Promotion Unit hosted a Youth and Leaders Forum, on November 25th and 26th respectively, to educate these groups and to encourage them to be champions for our communities. Members of the Health Promotion Unit will worship on Sunday, 1st December 2019 at the Gingerland Methodist Church in observance of World AIDS Day.
In St. Kitts and Nevis we have gained many successes as it relates to HIV/AIDS prevention and control. We are proud of our achievement of the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Individual and confidential services of counselling and rapid testing are available at selected health centres, and our hospital and Health Promotion Unit. These services are offered on a regular basis and are free of cost. Treatment by Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) and tests for monitoring treatment are also available free of cost.
We all have our part to play, as a community, in eliminating HIV/AIDS. We can do this by learning all we can about HIV and its prevention. We can encourage each other to get tested and know our status. We can help by not stigmatizing and discriminating against each other because of our choices and status, and by reporting or speaking up about any such situation where someone is stigmatized or discriminated against. We can support those who are living with HIV by encouraging to adhere to their doctor’s advice. Let us make a difference and help end HIV/AIDS!