Free HIV testing will be available in the Cayman Islands during the last week of June.
The Health Services Authority, the Cayman AIDS Foundation and the Cayman Islands Red Cross have organised “HIV Testing Week”, from Saturday, 22 June, through Friday, 28 June, under the theme: “Take the Test and Take Control – Know your HIV status”.
This annual event is part of an international and regional awareness initiative during which people participate in voluntary HIV counselling and testing, conducted by trained and experienced personnel.
“The good news is that with the excellent services and treatments available nowadays, with early diagnosis and treatment, someone with HIV can look forward to a normal life span, as well as taking steps to protect their partner from infection,” said Health Minister Osbourne Bodden. “That’s why it is vitally important that anyone who has been at risk gets an HIV test, and that those in higher risk groups get screened regularly.”
Through testing and counselling, HIV-infected clients can receive early referrals into treatment and care programmes where they can benefit from further counselling and support, while at-risk clients can receive risk-reduction counselling and support to maintain their HIV-negative status.
Karen Clayton Babb, nurse manager for general practice and the district health centres, said the best way to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV is to “avoid risk-taking behaviours that give the virus a chance to spread from someone else to you”.
“The main behaviour change should be to prevent all unsafe sexual practices and engage in faithful relationships,” she said.
No appointments are needed at HSA facilities in Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, although anyone seeking testing should tell the registration clerks that they would like to register for free HIV testing. In Little Cayman, people are required to call the clinic for an appointment.
Waiting times for testing are usually no more than 10 minutes and confidential results will be available in three working days. These will be given to the patient only, who must return to the clinic where the test was taken to retrieve the final results.
Testing is also available in some public places, including Cost U Less on 22 June, Cayman AIDS Foundation on 24 June and the Cayman Islands Red Cross building on 25 June. Anyone tested at these locations should go to the HSA’s general practice clinic for results.
As well as urging the public to take advantage of the free testing, health officials also emphasised how to avoid or reduce the chances of being exposed to HIV. These include being faithful with a partner who is also faithful, abstinence, always using protection, such as condoms, in sexual encounters and not using illicit intravenous drugs.