(SNO) — Forty-four people were diagnosed with HIV, the virus which causes the deadly disease AIDS, in Saint Lucia in 2017, Dr. Gail Gajadhar of the Infectious Disease Unit and acting senior medical officer, has revealed.
She is also pointing out the fact that although there is news that a United Kingdom patient’s HIV has become “undetectable” following a stem cell transplant, a cure for the disease is not on the horizon.
She is warning Saint Lucians that it is important to know if they are infected with HIV.
“In 2017, we had 44 persons diagnosed with HIV,” she said. “Those were new diagnoses.”
She said of that number, 29 were males and 15 were females.
“So we have a ratio of about two to one,” Dr. Gajadhar stated.
In terms of transmission, she explained that 20 of the reported cases were unknown, five were transmitted through men having sex with men, and the rest were heterosexual transmission.
She stated that from since 2007, Saint Lucia has not seen a case of HIV transmission from mother to child.
She said that six people died of AIDS-related complication in Saint Lucia in 2017 and three were part of the 44 that were newly diagnosed.
Despite the grim figures, Dr. Gajadhar said HIV medication is readily available in Saint Lucia at different clinics.
“HIV can be treated,” she stated.
However, she said Saint Lucians should get to know their status.
“Don’t be afraid of HIV,” she explained. “Get tested. The earlier you are tested, the better.”
Dr. Gajadhar said taking daily medication by those diagnosed with HIV is very important.
“And I am not saying that it is something that is easy but there are persons in Saint Lucia living with HIV who have undetectable viral loads,” she said. “It is important to know and I want you to think about HIV like diabetes and hypertension. When someone has diabetes, in order to control their sugar, they need to take their medication, be it tablet, insulin or both on a daily basis.”
She explained it is the same with high blood pressure and it is no difference for someone with HIV.