World AIDS Day Message
On Saturday, 1 December 2018, the Cayman Islands joins countries around the globe in marking the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day.
Much has changed since that first observance, but this year’s theme reminds us that it is still of the utmost importance to “Know Your Status”. HIV testing is of course the only way to determine your status, and it is essential for expanding treatment and ensuring that people living with HIV can lead healthy and productive lives.
Testing is also crucial to achieving the United Nation’s 90–90–90 targets. The Cayman Islands stands in support of these objectives, which call for the diagnosis of at least 90% of all HIV-positive persons, the provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 90% of those diagnosed, and the achievement of viral suppression for 90% of those treated by 2020.
These goals seek to empower people to make choices about HIV prevention, so they can protect themselves and their loved ones. They are critical to success in the global fight against AIDS as many people get tested only after becoming ill and symptomatic. This in turn leads to HIV treatment being initiated late, undermining its many benefits for both treatment and prevention.
The more information we have on HIV status, and the earlier we have it, the better able we will be to aim for these benchmarks and their benefits. In this regard significant progress has been made in the HIV/AIDS response since 1988, and today three in four people living with HIV know their status.
Yet we still have miles to go, as the latest UNAIDS report shows. This includes reaching people living with HIV unaware of their status, and ensuring that any who may be positive are promptly linked to quality care and prevention services.
Thirty six point nine million people around the world live with HIV. In the Caribbean 310,000 people are HIV positive, with 15,000 newly infected persons discovered in 2017 alone.
Statistics from the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority show that a total of 72 persons are living with HIV in the Cayman Islands. Since January 2018 to 30th September 2018, seven new infections were diagnosed and /or added to our statistics, with one death. Again I emphasise that with early detection of HIV and proper treatment and care, people can live long and healthy lives, but we should not forget the importance of prevention as well.
Our prevention efforts include the availability of free condoms in all district health centres and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) antiretroviral medicines to those persons who are in partnership with HIV positive individuals, along with behavior change intervention programmes.
In addition, the Cayman Islands Red Cross continues its work in the community and schools offering education on sex, sexuality, HIV testing and counselling, as well as condom distribution.
Accordingly to help protect our future, for our country and our population, I ask that we all join together this World AIDS Day to raise awareness about the importance of knowing one’s status.
There are a number of testing locations including the district health centres in Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands, UCCI, Seven Mile Medical Clinic and the Cayman Islands Red Cross located at the Corporate Centre. Please encourage your family and friends to get tested.
On the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day I also ask you to join me in praying for the souls of all our friends, family members, and loved ones, here and around the world, who have lost their lives to this disease. May God keep them in his infinite mercy.