Marketing and Communications Manager
BVI Health Services Authority
The Ministry of Health and Social Development has reported that there is a total of 120 reported cases of HIV/AIDS in the Territory between 1985 and 2015 as it spreads the message of getting to zero in observance of World AIDS Day on December 1.
Family Health Coordinator Ms. Noelene Levons said that getting to zero means that as a part of the global community, the Territory is striving for zero new HIV infections, zero deaths from AIDS and zero stigma and discrimination for people living with HIV.
The first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in the British Virgin Islands in June 1985. The number of newly reported cases between June 1985 and December 2007 was 68. Since then, there were nine new cases in 2008 and 2009 respectively, seven were reported in 2010, six in 2011, five in 2012, 10 in 2013, and three in 2014 and 2015.
Ms. Levons stated that by following key messages the community can significantly reduce the chances of new HIV infections.
She said, “Know your status and all your sexual partners’ HIV status by getting tested, use a condom with every sexual encounter, and be faithful to one faithful partner. If you are HIV Positive, taking your medications daily as prescribed by your doctor will lessen the chances of passing the infection on to others while preventing AIDS and death.”
The Family Health Coordinator added “We want young people to put off sex until they are older and are more physically, mentally and emotionally mature to deal with the consequences that come along with having sex. “Sex is great. Wait until you have a stable job, you are living in your own space and are also in a respectful, committed relationship or married.”
Provisions are in place for adolescents who do not practice abstinence. Health services including testing for all Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) including HIV and Pap smears as well as health commodities such as contraceptives, condoms and the morning-after-pill are legally available to all adolescents from age 16 years.
Ms. Levons said this privilege is provided by the Virgin Islands Age of Majority Act 1994. HIV testing is available free at the Family Health Unit located on the second floor of the Betito Frett Building, upstairs Training Division and next to Banco Popular in Road Town.
The Family Health Coordinator reiterated that everyone is at risk for HIV from birth until old age and, regardless of one’s age, sexual preference or lifestyle, married or unmarried, one should get tested for HIV. She also encouraged persons to include HIV testing as well as tests for other STIs such as Herpes, Hepatitis B, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Cancroids as part of their annual health screenings.
A public awareness campaign has been launched to assist with ensuring that the community is fully aware of the key messages. The goal she stated is to encourage and empower individuals to make the best possible choices and decisions to safeguard themselves and also protect others from contracting HIV and other STIs.
Information will be disseminated to the community in the form of television programmes, radio reports, radio and television commercials, press releases, posters, and other mass media products.