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(PRESS RELEASE) — Statistics from the Ministry of Health indicate that there is no major spike in the number of new HIV-related infections on island, which has remained in the 40s for the last three years.
However, the ministry continues to encourage members of the public to know their HIV status as the infection rate among men is almost double that of women.
Ag. Senior Medical Officer for Infectious Diseases in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Gail Gajadhar, said the number of new HIV cases have remained about the same over the past three years. For 2015, 2016 and 2017, the number of new HIV infections in St. Lucia were 46, 42 and 44, respectively.
“We found that there has been twice the number of men compared to women. In terms of all those numbers our goal is to reduce our numbers further. We’re hoping persons will be able to practice being faithful to their partner, using protection, things like that. But it’s not only about that; we want persons to get tested too because there are still persons out there who may not want to get tested, who do not want to go for testing.”
HIV is treated like any other chronic disease, such as diabetes and hypertension, where treatment and medication is provided free of charge at public health clinics.
Dr. Gajadhar encouraged all sexually active persons to know their HIV status, by getting an HIV test which is also free and available at the sexual and reproductive health clinics and selected wellness centres across the island.
“We have done a population-size estimate study, so we know we have key populations out there. We have men who have sex with men (MSM), we have transactional workers, we also have other vulnerable populations like the youth and migrants. So we’re encouraging everyone to come in to get tested. And like I said it does not matter whether you are from St. Lucia or migrating into St. Lucia, we offer free testing and free treatment to all persons no matter where you’re from. We don’t discriminate.”
She noted that though globally, funding for HIV has reduced, the OECS region is fortunate to have received a Global Fund Grant which has allowed the region and St. Lucia to accomplish a number of significant goals.
“They have assisted us with many things. We have an HIV drug-resistant study that is ongoing. They assisted with the population size estimate study, they recently assisted with a motivational interviewing workshop that was held last week, they have assisted with training for rapid syphilis testing and combination test for rapid syphilis and HIV testing, which will assist in diagnosing more patients with syphilis. And what we are trying to do is to reduce the transmission of syphilis from mother to child.”
The medical officer stated that the OECS anxiously awaits approval for a continuation grant from the Global Fund which will allow both St. Lucia and the region to draw close to the 90-90-90 targets set by UNAIDS to end the AIDS epidemic.
Below is an audio report about the new stats.