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Free HIV Testing

The Health Services Authority (HSA), the Cayman AIDS Foundation and the Red Cross have joined forces once again in organizing HIV Testing week which this year will run from Monday, 27 June to Friday, 1 July.

The start of the local testing campaign coincides with international HIV testing days around the world. The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) along with the Caribbean Broadcasting Media Partnership (CBMP) will at the same time be promoting Regional HIV Testing Day (27 June), while the National Association of people with AIDS (NAPWA) will be commemorating National HIV Testing Day in the United States (NHTD).

All efforts are geared towards supporting people to voluntarily seek HIV testing and counselling with this year's theme being Take the Test, Take Control - Be > than AIDS.

Specifically the worldwide campaigns encourage all to play their part in halting the HIV/ AIDS epidemic by taking advantage of free testing and be aware of one's HIV status and to practice safe sex to prevent further spread of the epidemic.

The Minister of Health the Hon. Mark Scotland added his voice to the campaign, asking residents to "take the test, know their status, and take control."

He added: "Even after 30 years of education and prevention efforts, HIV continues to be a critical issue throughout the world; one of which we are not exempt. "Fortunately, we can do something: Get tested for HIV; practice safe sex; talk about HIV with family, friends and colleagues, support people living with HIV and AIDS and get involved with the National HIV Testing Week in your community".

Minister Scotland also pointed to the fact that if you know your status, it can make a difference: "Some people who have HIV are not even aware of it. But those individuals who do know are living longer, better quality lives due to the treatments they receive. Knowing your status means taking control and being responsible for your own health." HSA HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator Pauline Ffrench echoed the importance of minimizing the risk and stopping the spread of HIV: "In principle, everyone who is old enough for sexual activity is at risk for becoming infected with HIV.

"The best way to reduce your risk of becoming infected with HIV is to avoid risk taking behaviors that give the virus a chance to spread from someone else to you. The main behavior change should be to prevent all unsafe sexual practices and engage in faithful relationships."

Free HIV testing will be available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at all district health centers on Grand Cayman, at the George Town General Practice Clinic, Public Health Clinic , Faith Hospital on Cayman Brac, and the Little Cayman Clinic by appointment.

The testing procedure involves a quick and simple blood test. No appointment is necessary at the larger clinics and the waiting time for testing is usually no more than ten minutes. Persons who are seeking testing or counseling need to indicate to the registration clerks that they would like to register for free HIV screening.

The results will be available in three working days and will be given to the patient only, who must return to the clinic where the test was taken to get the results. This is to protect the confidentiality of the individual and to offer counseling.

For more information about HIV testing week, Contact HIV AIDS programme coordinator Pauline Ffrench at 244- 2631 or Laura Whitefield at 244 2507.

What is HIV Testing?

The HIV test looks for antibodies in a person's blood. When HIV (which is a virus) enters a body, special chemicals are produced. These chemicals 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. The test is only accurate if there are no other exposures between the time of possible exposure to HIV and testing.

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver