Today’s Editorial July 11: Take advantage of free testing

The Health Services Authority is offering peace of mind this week through free HIV testing.

If you aren’t sure whether you have HIV, take the test. If you test negatively you can put your mind to ease and make some lifestyle changes.

If you do test positive, you’ve taken the first right step.

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.

While being HIV positive may sound scary, it is treatable. It’s also the first step to AIDS, a disease that isn’t going away any time soon.

Just look at the statistics. There were 39.5 million people living with AIDS worldwide in 2006 while 2.9 million people died.

Closer to home, at the end of 2005 there were an estimated 330,000 people living with HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean.

And yes, there are people in the Cayman Islands who are infected with HIV and AIDS.

In three of the larger countries in this region – the Bahamas, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago – more than 2% of the adult population is living with HIV. Higher prevalence rates are found only in sub-Saharan Africa, making the Caribbean the second-most affected region in the world. More than half of adults living with the virus are women.

AIDS is now one of the leading causes of death in some of these countries, with Haiti being the worst affected. An estimated 16,000 lives are lost each year to AIDS in Haiti, and tens of thousands of children have been orphaned by the epidemic.

Unfortunately the predominant route of HIV transmission in the Caribbean is heterosexual contact; it’s no longer just the disease of drug users or same sex partners.

Testing in the Cayman Islands is being done at all district health centres, the public health department and government hospitals.

It’s free, quick and measures have been put in place to ensure confidentiality.

It takes three days to get the test results back and they will be given only to the person who was tested and only at the site where the test was taken.

So if you aren’t sure about your HIV status do yourself and your partner a favour this week and take advantage of the free testing.

If you need more information call AIDS Programme Coordinator Pauline Ffrench at 244-2631 or [email protected]; or Health Promotion Officer Therese Prehay, at 244-2632, or [email protected].

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