Officials urge testing as HIV still poses threat

| 01/12/2009

(CNS): As the international community marks another World Aids Day, the Cayman Islands still has one of the lowest infection rates in the Caribbean region, which, despite its recent decline in growth, has one of the highest rates of infection in the world. The latest UNAIDS figures released Tuesday show HIV prevalence is especially high among young women. The CIG is urging everyone to get tested because, while HIV rates may be relatively low in Cayman, statistics for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among young people are said to be particularly high — an indicator of risky sexual behaviour.

This year the theme for World Aids Day is "Universal Access and Human Rights", and the Cayman Islands will be promoting the need to get tested as well as the need to support those who live with the disease. “Since 1988 the face and response to AIDS has greatly changed. While many of these changes are positive, this anniversary offers us an opportunity to highlight how much more still needs to be done,” said STI/AIDS Programme Coordinator Pauline Ffrench.

Public health officials are urging people to take responsibility for their own health by getting tested regularly. “Knowing your HIV-status plays a key role in lowering the incidence of the disease,” added Ffrench.

In his World Aids Day message, Health Minister Mark Scotland said that despite its high profile, widely-held misconceptions continue regarding the disease.

“This ignorance, in turn, leads to stigma, fear and intolerance,” he stated. “Stigmatizing HIV/AIDS sufferers can prevent them from accessing the care they need. They can also miss out on vital support from family and friends, just because they fear making their situations known. Also, stigma can lead to people avoiding getting tested — and if you don’t know your status, you might not protect others as you should, or seek the care you need.”

He added that the community must fight stigma and discrimination as hard as it fights the actual disease but raised his concern about the impact of negative forces made it slow process.

He urged the community to do two things.

“Respect those who have the disease and protect yourself and others by getting tested regularly and by practicing safe sex. Having HIV/AIDS doesn’t mean you have done ‘something wrong’ and nobody ‘deserves’ to have it for any reason,” he said. “Let’s join together and challenge these stereotypes and divisive beliefs; let’s foster a caring and protective environment for all.”

World AIDS Day began in 1988 when health ministers from around the world met and agreed on the concept of the day as an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of fighting AIDS, as well as showing true solidarity for the cause. 

This year the Health Services Authority is offering Free HIV screening Monday, 30 – Friday, 4 December, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at all district health centres in Grand Cayman including the George Town General Practice Clinic and Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac. Persons in Little Cayman may call the clinic at 948 0072 to make arrangements for these tests. People who want to be tested and/or counselled need to indicate to the registration clerks that they would like to register for free HIV/AIDS screening. Results take three working days, and it will be given to the patient only, who must return to clinic where the test was taken to receive the results.

There will also be a Candle Light Vigil on Tuesday, 1 December, 6 p.m. at the Emslie Memorial Church in George Town. The walk will begin from the Cayman Islands Hospital to the church. Contact Margaret Michaud (Cayman AIDS Foundation) at 924-7877 for more details.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    There are two types = viral and bacterial. bacterial can be cured and are usually listed under the catagory of STI’s (sexually transmitted infections). i.e. chlamydia, syphillis, gonorrhea etc.

    viral have no cure such as HPV, HIV, Herpes etc. usually listed now as sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)

    hope that helps some.

    wearing a condom helps reduce most, but you can still get infections in your mouth, throat etc.  if you do not use a barrior. could go on, but think that explains most.


  2. Anonymous says:

    An incredibly frightening thought, one infected person could transmit HIV to dozens or more in a loosely controled sexual environment. That it has not perhaps happened in Cayman it is a risk and a concern for the health of the country.

  3. Anon says:

    Test every tourist!

    Yeah, what a good idea. If they show negative then send them packing anyway in case it is a false negative; better safe than sorry.
    Introduce such a thing and Caymans tourist product’s longevity would be measured in hours.
    There are some seriously mentally ill people in Cayman; they can be found in churches every Sunday.
    • Jab Jab says:

      Actually, you’ll note that the first person to suggest ‘testing people as they come through the air & sea ports’ isn’t in Cayman. There are some seriously bigoted people (in Cayman); they can be found on these boards daily bashing the church goers.

  4. Anonymous says:


    I am very concerned about AIDS but what about cancer? I keep hearing how LOW the HIV/AIDS rate is here on the island; while I don’t believe this is precisely accurate. I however am not as apprehensive because at least the steps to prevent spreading infection are clear cut and available to many. The cure if any is obscure but the rate “appears” to be low. The life expectancy with HIV in many cases are better than with many cancers.  The Cancer rate on the other hand is the ELEPHANT in the room that we never really address. I personally believe that we must have one of the highest rates in Caribbean and perhaps even the world. We should invite cancer researchers to conduct a study down here. Something is defiantly wrong. I have heard people speculate from polluted ground water due to improper disposal of petroleum and to the banned chemicals; i.e. buying cheap chemical pesticides after they had been banned by the USA and Canada such as DDT to spray mosquitoes. DDT is known to cause cancer and was banned and sold to many developing countries. 
    I feel People’s concern about AIDS but honestly I have been more affected by cancer. Raising money to pay for chemo therapy or treat cancer is simply not enough. They want a heart centre here but a cancer treatment retreat or center would be more appropriate.
    Why is cancer so high here????????
  5. tired says:

    Rapid testing is an low cost screening method however in isolation it does not provide you with a conclusive result.  It must be used in conjunction with other HIV specific test such as western blot. The reason why the results take so long is because the western blot cannot be conducted on island. Perhaps we need to have this capability here.

    With regards to testing tourist and workers. Realistically and morally there are some concerns with mandatory testing.

    The testing regime required for workers by no means sufficient to stop the spread of HIV on island.

    We must now have cultural paradigm shift where each person is responsible for their own actions, and persons who have multiple partners and or suspect their partner is unfaithful must consistently practice condom use and regular testing.

    Condoms must become as normal as infidelity!


  6. Anonymous says:

    The probability of a false positive, if you cut through all the obfuscation, is .5 %. If you test 50,000 people, you will scare 250 people to death needlessly with a false positive result requiring further testing. If you tested every tourist it would be a huge number.


  7. Anonymous says:

    If the writer is proposing that Rapid HIV tests are used to screen incoming passengers at Owen Roberts airport as they go through Customs and Immigration then I would predict a sharp decline in visitors to the cayman islands.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Been tested twice since I’ve lived in Cayman, for the expat it is all part of life and work in Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      What a shame that your health is checked regularly. When I was in the US for University, I had to have an HIV test once a year, in addition to other tests (e.g. VDRL). 

      Let me ask you this, did you pay for the test(s) out of pocket (as I did) or did your company pay for it?

      • Anon says:

        "When I was in the US for University, I had to have an HIV test once a year, in addition to other tests (e.g. VDRL). "

        Such a shame that you also had to have your health checked regularly, LOL

        I had the VRDL as well, and yes I paid for them out of pocket, but when I lived in big nasty Britain the NHS paid for it. Why do you ask? does it change the result? does it make it any more important? odd question!

        I think it should be mandatory for every resident to have a yearly or bi-annual test.

        Can you guess what happens if a permit holder finds out he has contracted HIV while working in Cayman, most likely from a local or tourist? that’s right permit terminated deported home. Just home it is to a country with a national health service, because once you lose your job there goes your health insurance, and who is going to insure you then?


        • Anonymous says:

          Why are our work permit holders fooling around with Caymanians/Tourist in the first place??!!

        • Anonymous says:

           I ask because I want to know.. isn’t that the reason anyone would pose a question? And personally I am of the opinion that every person, regardless of immigration status, should be tested annually. 

          I don’t think Britain is nasty, sorry that you do.

  9. what a mess says:

    Mr. Scotland’s comments are appreciated. At the very least, his tone sounds like one that’s balances the need for compassion as a much needed part of this equation, where too often there is much fear and ignorance.

    As for a previous poster’s suggestion about rapid tests. I believe rapid tests should be available, but to enforce the use of them as part of a screening process at the ports of arrival?…would not solve anything and would be very expensive. The same "window" between being exposed and testing positive would also apply. I’m not aware of any country going to such extremes of invasion of ones privacy. Education and reduction in stigma and discrimination is the way to proceed, as evidenced by professionals in this area.

    Thanks Mr. Scotland for using your position for this most worthy cause!

  10. Anonymous says:

    "sexually transmitted infections (STIs)"

    I thought it was sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or is this not politically correct now ?

    • Anonymous says:

      Its being called STIs so that it also includes infections such asChlamydia and syphilis etc.

      • Bones says:

        Chlamydia and syphilis are STD’s, well according to the CDC and other medical sources

        The actual reason per wikipedia

        "in recent years the term sexually transmitted infection (STI) has been preferred, as it has a broader range of meaning; a person may be infected, and may potentially infect others, without showing signs of disease. "

  11. John Evans says:

    One of the problems in the Cayman Islands is the refusal by CIG to adopt the rapid HIV test, which uses either a mouth swab or a finger stick and is widely available in the USA.

    As your story reports, "Results take three working days, and it will be given to the patient only, who must return to clinic where the test was taken to receive the results." Why? Rapid tests produce results at least as accurate (and without the risks of samples being mixed up, contaminated or lost) in  under 30 minutes, allowing an immediate response to any positive results.

    I remember researching a story on this back in 2007 and discovering that the people running the AIDS screening programme had no working knowledge of the rapid tests. One told me they would have check on it and get back to me – they never did – another just put the phone down when I suggested there was an alternative testing method!

    During my calls it also became apparent that other aspects of the AIDS testing, including re-testing of people in high risk categories to cover the ‘window’ when a patient is infected but tests still prove negative, were not being implemented.

    All ex-pats working on Cayman for more than three months are tested but only a very small percentage of Caymanians are screened and with, "statistics for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among young people are said to be particularly high," that is a worrying fact. One of the huge gaps in the screening system is that Caymanians returning after living, working or studying abroad are not tested even if they come back from high-risk areas.

    The story pretty much repeats all the rhetoric I heard two years ago when under 100 people, out of a population of over 50,000, turned up for free AIDS testing.

    Rapid tests are fast (quick enough to screen incoming passengers at Owen Roberts airport as they go through Customs and Immigration)socially acceptable, accurate, inexpensive and reduce clinic waste – they need to be incorporated into the Cayman Islands screening programme as a matter of urgency.