Get Tested This Week
The Health Services Authority (HSA) and the Cayman AIDS Foundation are offering free HIV testing to all Cayman Islands residents throughout HIV Testing Week 2009 (25 June - 3 July).
HIV Testing Week and National Testing Day (Friday, 26 June) is an annual event established by the Association of People Living with HIV/ AIDS in the Unites States to encourage everyone, especially those who they think may be at risk, to access voluntary counselling and testing.
"Knowing one's HIV status is of vital importance, for recent medical advances in HIV treatment indicate that early diagnosis and treatment can improve the quality of life for persons who have the HIV infection. Early diagnosis and treatment has also been shown to prolong and improve the lives of those in whom the HIV infection has developed into full-blown AIDS," explained HSAs STI/ AIDS Programme Coordinator Nurse Pauline Ffrench.
"This is why we have decided to join forces to celebrate National HIV Testing Day. Locally a week of activities aimed at promoting awareness of HIV prevention has been organised," she explained. These activities include poster displays, educational sessions in the schools and free HIV testing and voluntary counselling across the islands.
"The testing procedure involves a quick and simple blood test," promised Nurse Ffrench.
Special arrangements will be in place to facilitate speed and confidentiality. No appointment is necessary during this week, and the waiting time will be no more than ten to fifteen minutes. Persons seeking testing or counselling will need to indicate to the registration clerks that they would like to register for free HIV screening. These results will be available in three working days and will be given to the patient only, who must return to clinic where the test was taken.
"The importance of being tested and knowing one's HIV status is the focus of this annual testing and awareness campaign," said HSA Health Promotion Officer Therese Prehay. "The sooner a person finds out his or her HIV status, the sooner he or she can take action to increase the chances of remaining healthy."
Apart from advocating regular testing, Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr Anna Matthews is further encouraging residents to take personal precautions to remain HIV-negative: "This disease is now a modern day reality, since the Cayman Islands has such a diverse, and fluid population."
She also noted that we must remain alert to the fact that the Caribbean region has the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world, second only to Sub Saharan Africa.
There are several risk factors for exposure to HIV. These include any unprotected sexual contact, intravenous drug use and mother-to-child transmission.
Anyone who has been exposed or has a partner who has been exposed to these risk factors should be tested for HIV, Dr Matthews noted.
"The advances in treating HIV have, thankfully, worked to reduce significantly, mother to mother transmission in the Cayman Islands with over 90% success rate and dispel many of the myths and stigmas formerly associated with HIV-testing and with the disease," said Dr Matthews.
She added: "The advances have been such that knowing you are infected is information that can help to prolong life, by allowing for appropriate treatment. With that in mind the opportunity for testing should therefore be welcomed rather than feared."
For more information about HIV Testing Week, contact AIDS Programme Coordinator Pauline Ffrench at 244-2631, or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Health Promotion Officer Therese Prehay, at 244-2632, or email@example.com.
HIV Testing - What you need to know:
- GT General Practice ,Cayman Islands Hospital ,244-2858
- George Town Public Health Clinic Cayman Islands Hospital, 244-2648
- West Bay District Health Centre, 949-3439
- Bodden Town Health Centre, 947-2299
- East End District Health Centre, 947-7440
- North Side District Health Centre, 947-9525
- Little Cayman - call the clinic on 948-0072 to schedule an appointment
Thursday, 25 June and Friday, 26 June from 9am-2pm
Monday, 29 June to Friday, 3 July from 9am-2pm
Test results will be available in 2-3 days. To get yours, you must return to the clinic where the test was done.
What is HIV Testing?
The HIV test looks for antibodies in a person's blood. When HIV (which is a virus) enters a person's body, special chemicals are produced. These are called antibodies. Antibodies are the body's response to an infection.
What does HIV testing involve?
A small sample of blood will be taken from your arm, sent to a laboratory and tested for antibodies. The test is always strictly confidential.
What is a positive HIV test?
HIV positive means that antibodies to HIV were detected. It means that the person is infected with HIV. (Except in infants of HIV- positive mothers, who may retain her antibodies for some months).
What is a negative HIV Test?
HIV negative means that antibodies to HIV were not detected, in almost all cases this means the person is not infected with HIV. Most people develop the antibodies within three months of infection. In rare cases it can take up to six months. It is good for the test to be repeated three months later and even at six months, just to be extra sure.
The time between infection and the development of antibodies is called the window period. In the window period people infected with HIV have no antibodies in their blood that can be detected by an HIV test. It is also important that you are not at further risk of getting infected with HIV during this time period. The test is only accurate if there are no other exposures between the time of possible exposure to HIV and testing.
Source: Public Health Department.