Dwayne Seymour, minister of health

Seven patients in the Cayman Islands were diagnosed with HIV between January and the end of September this year, bringing the total number of HIV-positive people in Cayman to 72, according to Health Minister Dwayne Seymour. One person died from the disease in that period.

Mr. Seymour revealed the latest statistics in a message to the public to mark World AIDS Day, which falls on Saturday, Dec. 1.

The theme of this year’s day is “Know your status.” Mr. Seymour said the theme reminds people of the importance of getting tested.

He said testing is also crucial to achieving the United Nation’s “90–90–90” targets, which call for the diagnosis of at least 90 percent of all HIV-positive individuals, the provision of antiretroviral therapy for 90 percent of those diagnosed, and the achievement of viral suppression for 90 percent of those treated by 2020.

“The more information we have on HIV status, and the earlier we have it, the better able we will be to aim for these benchmarks and their benefits. In this regard, significant progress has been made in the HIV/AIDS response since 1988, and today three in four people living with HIV know their status,” Mr. Seymour said.

According to the World Health Organization, 36.9 million people globally are living with HIV. In the Caribbean, 310,000 people are HIV positive, with 15,000 newly infected people discovered in 2017 alone.

“Again, I emphasize that with early detection of HIV and proper treatment and care, people can live long and healthy lives, but we should not forget the importance of prevention as well,” the minister said.

He said prevention efforts in Cayman include the availability of free condoms in all district health centers and pre-exposure prophylaxis antiretroviral medicines to people who are in partnership with HIV-positive individuals, along with behavior change intervention programs.

In addition, the Cayman Islands Red Cross continues its work in the community and schools, offering education on sex, sexuality, HIV testing and counseling, as well as condom distribution.

There are a number of testing locations, including the district health centers in Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands, UCCI, Seven Mile Medical Clinic and the Cayman Islands Red Cross located at the Corporate Centre.

“Please encourage your family and friends to get tested,” Mr. Seymour said in his message.