Free HIV testing next week

Cayman Islands residents will have the opportunity for free HIV testing during HIV Testing Week 2007 beginning Monday.

The importance of being tested and knowing one’s HIV status is the focus of this annual testing and awareness campaign, again being offered jointly by the Health Services Authority and the Cayman Islands AIDS Foundation.

The purpose of the week’s activity is four-fold: to inform people on how to avoid contracting this sickness; to promote and encourage early detection and treatment; to educate the public of the actions and behaviour that could lead to exposure to any sexually transmitted diseases (and thereby increase the risk of contracting HIV / AIDS); and to prevent transmission by infected persons.

There are several risk factors for exposure to HIV. These include any unprotected sexual contact, drug abuse (especially involving intravenous injections), blood transfusions, or having obtained a tattoo. Anyone who has been exposed or has a partner who has been exposed to these risk factors should be tested for HIV.

‘The sooner a person finds out his or her HIV status, the sooner he or she can take action to increase the chances of remaining healthy,’ advises Cayman Islands AIDS Programme Coordinator Pauline Ffrench.

Ms Ffrench said that the testing procedure involves a quick and simple blood test.

‘Knowing one’s HIV status is important, for recent medical advances in HIV treatment indicate that early diagnosis and treatment can improve the lives of persons who have the HIV virus, but who may not have any symptoms of AIDS,’ said Ms Ffrench. ‘Early diagnosis has also been shown to prolong the lives of those in whom HIV has developed into full-blown AIDS.’

Public Health Officials note that special arrangements will be implemented to facilitate speed and confidentiality. No appointment is necessary during this week, and the waiting time for testing is usually no more than ten minutes.

Persons seeking testing or counselling need to indicate to the registration clerks that they would like to register for free HIV screening. The results will be available in three working days. The results will be given to the patient only, who must return to clinic where the test was taken to retrieve the results.

There are three ways to avoid or reduce the chances of being exposed:

• Abstinence is the surest way to avoid HIV or any STD (but can be an unrealistic expectation for many people);

• being faithful with a partner who is also faithful; or

• Always using protection (condoms) in sexual encounters.

For more information about HIV Testing Week, contact AIDS Programme Coordinator Pauline Ffrench at 244-2631, or [email protected]; or Health Promotion Officer Therese Prehay, at 244-2632, or [email protected].

FYI

HIV counselling and testing will be offered from 9am to 1pm daily, from Monday to Friday at the following locations:

• Public Health Department, Cayman Islands Hospital, George Town;

• General Practice Clinic, Cayman Islands Hospital;

• All District Health Centres;

• Faith Hospital, Cayman Brac

• On Little Cayman, tests can be done by appointment at the Health Centre, telephone 948-0072.

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