HIV/AIDS rates low in Cayman

The Cayman Islands has one of the lowest rates of HIV/AIDS in the entire Caribbean region.

But rates in the whole region are among the highest in the world second only to Sub Saharan Africa.

Around 0.1 per cent of adult residents in Cayman have HIV/AIDS.

Of the 41 infected, 12 now have full-blown AIDS and the remaining 29 are asymptomatic. Asymptomatic HIV sufferers have the virus but haven’t yet developed the symptoms.

These and other local HIV/AIDS statistics were given by the Health Minister Mr. Anthony Eden during a Cabinet press briefing. They form part of a wider presentation given on AIDS data compiled by the Public Health Department of the Health Services Authority.

Cumulative HIV/AIDS statistics, collated annually by the department since the first locally recorded case in 1985, indicate that 77 residents had contracted the communicable disease.

The figures showed that 40 had gone on to develop full blown AIDS, 26 have died and 10 residents left the islands.

Mr. Eden said the term resident refers to Caymanians, spouses of Caymanians and legal residents.

He said all blood donors and blood units are screened for HIV.

Figures also show that between 1985 and 1990 adult HIV/AIDS rates were about 60 per cent male and 40 per cent female. The rate is now around 50 per cent male and 50 per cent female.

Mr. Eden said the transmission to infants was preventable by giving anti-retroviral drugs to HIV-positive-pregnant women.

The administering of such drugs is on a voluntary basis and he said his Ministry would review policy options regarding the practice following a question raised about upholding the rights of children to be born HIV free.

Mr. Eden said the Cayman AIDS Foundation and the Cayman Islands Red Cross had received CI$80,000 and CI$37,000 in the 2005/06 budget for health programmes.

Funds, used to support programmes for the prevention and control of the disease would continue through the 2006/07 budget.

Another plank in the government’s fight against HIV/AIDS is its policy of zero tolerance regarding ‘discriminatory action and stigmatization of HIV infected persons in the workplace.’

‘Access to medical care and antiretroviral drugs are available to all HIV/AIDS clients. It is the government’s policy to ensure medical care to all persons (Caymanians and their spouses) who are HIV positive or suffering from AIDS,’ he added.

Director of Public Health Dr. Kiran Kumar regionally and globally rates ranged from just below 1 per cent up to 3 per cent.

He said at 0.1 per cent Cayman’s rate is on par with that of the UK and among the lowest in the entire Caribbean.

According to the World Health Organisation, HIV/AIDS is now the leading cause of death among men between the ages of 15 and 44 years in the English-speaking Caribbean.

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