Free HIV testing will be available for all Cayman Islands residents this week.
The screenings are being provided as part of National HIV Testing Week in the Cayman Islands, which aims to raise awareness about the risk factors of HIV, promote the importance of getting tested for the disease and offer free testing and counselling.
Health Minister Mark Scotland said, “There is more reason than ever to get tested. If you test negative, you can work to stay negative. If you test positive, you can work on staying healthy and protect the one you love. The first step however is to: take the test and take control – know your HIV status”.
Laura Whitefield, HIV/AIDS coordinator at the Health Services Authority, cited unprotected sexual contact and intravenous drug use as major risk factors for HIV. “Anyone who has been exposed, or has a partner who has been exposed, to these risk factors should be tested for HIV,” she said.
HIV Testing Week is an annual campaign observed both internationally and locally, and is held to encourage people to access voluntary counselling and testing.
The Health Services Authority and the Cayman AIDS Foundation have joined forces to organise National HIV Testing Week in Cayman.
According to the Health Services Authority, special arrangements will be in place to facilitate speed and confidentiality. No appointment is necessary during this week, and the waiting time for testing is usually no more than 10 minutes.
Anyone 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.
The Caribbean is second only to Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of HIV prevalence.
Studies show that those who learn they are HIV positive modify their behaviour to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Early knowledge of HIV status is also important for linking those with HIV to medical care and services that can reduce morbidity and mortality and improve quality of life.
Health officials point that there are several ways to avoid or reduce the chances of being exposed, including being faithful with a partner who is also faithful; abstinence; always using condoms in sexual encounters; and avoiding the use of illicit intravenous drugs.
For more information about HIV Testing Week, contact HIV/AIDS Programme Coordinator Laura Whitefield at 244-2702.