Health department offers free HIV testing

To mark World AIDS Day, which this year is Dec. 2, the Health Services Authority is teaming up with two nonprofits to offer free HIV testing at 10 sites throughout the Cayman Islands this week through Dec. 3.

No appointments are necessary, and counseling will be available both pre- and post-test. According to Health Promotion Officer Therese Prehay, the waiting times will be less than 10 minutes and results will be available in three business days.

The testing is a partnership between the Public Health Department, the Cayman AIDS Foundation and the Red Cross.

“HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, remains a major threat globally, and we in the Cayman Islands must do all we can to avoid the spread of this incurable disease,” Premier and Minister of Health Alden McLaughlin said in a press release.

“The Ministry of Health is committed to working with the Health Services Authority, Cayman AIDS Foundation and the Red Cross to ensure that education, opportunities for testing, as well as treatment and care, are accessible for all.”

The first case of HIV in the Cayman Islands was identified in 1985. Since then, 145 people have been diagnosed with the virus. Currently, 39 males and 28 females are living with the disease, Premier McLaughlin said.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 35 million people worldwide have died from AIDS-related illnesses. As of the end of 2015, there were approximately 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV and AIDS.

Since 1988, World AIDS Day has raised awareness about HIV and AIDS, commemorated those who have died, focusing attention on issues surrounding the disease and inspiring action to combat it. This year, the 28th anniversary of World AIDS Day, the theme is “leadership, commitment, impact.”

In line with those ideals, Mr. McLaughlin urged all Cayman residents to make a commitment to safe sex practices. “If we do not abide by our own actions to prevent the spread of HIV, the consequences can be grave,” he said.

According to Ms. Prehay, these practices can include abstinence from sexual activity, using condoms and avoiding intravenous drugs.

The premier also urged the community to commemorate those who lost their lives to the virus, and to treat everybody with HIV with respect and compassion. “We should never stigmatize anyone because they are HIV-positive,” he said.

HIV screening is also offered year-round each Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Cayman Islands Red Cross.

For a full schedule and list of free HIV testing sites, visit www.hsa.ky.

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