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Take the Test, Take Control

Free HIV testing will be available for all Cayman Islands residents during HIV Testing Week 2012 from Monday, 25 June to Saturday, 30 June 2012.

Testing week is an annual campaign observed both on an international and regional level. In the United States, the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) will be commemorating its 19th Annual National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) on 27 June. In the Caribbean, the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) along with the Caribbean Broadcasting Media Partnership (CBMP) is in its 6th year of promoting the regional HIV Testing Day on 29 June.

The main objective is to encourage individuals, or those who they think may be at risk, to access voluntary counseling and testing. HIV Testing Day also reminds us that HIV testing can save lives.

While the Caribbean remains one of the hardest hit regions in the world by the AIDS epidemic - second only to Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of HIV prevalence - HIV testing is an important part of prevention and treatment efforts. Studies show that those who learn they are HIV positive modify their behaviour to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

Early knowledge of HIV status is also important for linking those with HIV to medical care and services that can reduce morbidity and mortality and improve quality of life.

The Minister of Health Mark Scotland, JP, has offered his support for HIV Testing Day and says "There is more reason than ever to get tested. If you test negative, you can work to stay negative. If you test positive, you can work on staying healthy and protect the one you love. The first step however is to: Take the Test and Take Control - know your HIV status".

Laura Whitefield, HIV/AIDS Coordinator at the Health Services Authority (HSA), notes unprotected sexual contact and intravenous drug use as major risk factors. "Anyone who has been exposed, or has a partner who has been exposed, to these risk factors should be tested for HIV," she urges.

In support of the international and regional testing day, the HSA and the Cayman AIDS Foundation have joined forces in organizing National HIV Testing Week in the Cayman Islands. The week's activities are aimed at promoting heightened awareness of HIV prevention through the mass media, poster displays and by offering free HIV testing and voluntary counseling across the Islands.

Special arrangements will be implemented to facilitate speed and confidentiality. No appointment is necessary during this week, and the waiting time for testing is usually no more than ten minutes. Persons 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. The results will be given to the patient only, who must return to clinic where the test was taken to retrieve the results.

There are several ways to avoid or reduce the chances of being exposed:

  • Being faithful with a partner who is also faithful
  • Abstinence
  • Always using protection (condoms) in sexual encounters;
  • Avoid the use of illicit intravenous drugs.

For more information about HIV Testing Week, contact HIV/AIDS Programme Coordinator Laura Whitefield at 244-2702 or laura.whitefield@hsa.ky; or Health Promotion Officer Therese Prehay at 244-2632 or therese.prehay@hsa.ky.

For a full schedule and list of free HIV testing sites, go to www.ministryofhealth.gov.ky

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver