In the front row, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Neil Rowe, along with other key members of the National HIV/AIDS Commission and other governmental agencies, attended the church service at the St. Michael’s Cathedral on December 1, World AIDS Day.
Public urged: Come forward!
Barbadians are coming forward to be tested for HIV, but not in the numbers that the National HIV/AIDS Commission would like to see.
Director of the Commission, Dr. Jacqueline Wiltshire-Gay, made this comment during the service at the St. Michael’s Cathedral on World AIDS Day, which was celebrated yesterday.
She explained that every year the organisation is still detecting positives (HIV results) that were not caught during community testing sites and activities. She added that there is a need to push people to know their status by getting tested.
“There is no way you can work on your treatment or work on any of the areas to help you if you do not know your status,” said Dr. Wiltshire-Gay.
The National HIV/AIDS Commission Director said that her organisation does not have statistics on the current number of persons with HIV, as the focus of the entity is on stigma and discrimination while complementing the work of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, which focuses on diagnostic and treatment.
Dr. Wiltshire-Gay said that the National HIV/AIDS Commission was “making great strides” in the area of the age of sexual debut or when people first had sex, however there seems to be an increase in that group.
She added that other increasing statistics are in multi-partnering (having multiple sexual partners) and in a lack of condom use. She urged Barbadians to increase their condom use, saying this is important since incidences of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise.
“These are worrying signs for (the National HIV/AIDS Commission),” said Dr. Wiltshire-Gay.
In response to a question from the media as to the reason for these increases, Dr. Wiltshire-Gay stated that the causes were “multifaceted”. She suggested that during a period of recession, there will be more transactional sex and intergenerational sex and these could result in cases where people go into survival mode and not take the type of care that they should take.
She said that the Commission has attempted to address each issue with the groups they considered the most vulnerable or high at-risk groups.
This year, the theme for World AIDS Day is “Communities Make The Difference” and it marks the 31st World AIDS Day since its establishment in 1988.