Six days of free HIV/AIDS testing have been organized this week as part of the observance of World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.
The free testing was organized by the Health Services Authority’s Public Health Department, the Cayman AIDS Foundation and the Cayman Islands Red Cross.
The AIDS testing is available through Friday. Free counseling is also on offer during this time.
Testing is available from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the General Practice Department at the Cayman Islands Hospital, and at the district clinics in West Bay, North Side and Bodden Town. During those same times, free AIDS testing is also available at Faith Hospital on Cayman Brac and at the Little Cayman clinic. The testing will also be available from 2-4 p.m. at the Cayman AIDS Foundation’s office at The Village Plaza on Wednesday only, and then later that day from 5-7 p.m. at the Cayman Islands Red Cross offices on Huldah Avenue.
Special arrangements have been made to facilitate speed and confidentiality for HIV testing during the week, according to the Health Services Authority. People seeking testing or counseling need to indicate to the registration clerks that they would like to register for free HIV screening. No appointment is necessary and the waiting time for testing is usually no more than 10 minutes.
Patients must return to the clinic where the test was taken to retrieve the results, which will be made available in three working days. Only the patient is able to retrieve their results.
Free HIV screening is offered year-round each Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Cayman Islands Red Cross.
“Thus far it appears to be working well, as it provides those wishing to get tested a second location in the community, increasing access to HIV testing sites,” said Cayman Islands Red Cross Deputy Director, Carolina Ferreira.
Other activities planned for the week include a procession from the Government Administration Building to Heroes Square in George Town at 2 p.m. Tuesday followed by a candlelight vigil at Heroes Square at 5:30 p.m.
World AIDS Day was launched in 1988. Efforts this year focus on fast-tracking an end to the AIDS epidemic.
Currently, some 37 million people around the world live with HIV/AIDS; 17.1 million people do not know they are infected with the virus and need to be reached with HIV testing services; and around 22 million do not have access to HIV treatment, including 1.8 million children.
While HIV continues to be a major public health issue, having claimed more than 36 million lives so far, UNAIDS reports that 15 million people are accessing lifesaving treatment, and new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since the year 2000. AIDS-related deaths have declined by 42 percent since peaking in 2004.