AIDS claims 35 Cayman lives

| 01/12/2010

(CNS): Although Cayman has one of the lowest rates of HIV infection in the Caribbean, complacency towards the disease is a serious problem, the Red Cross has revealed. Four people died of the disease in Cayman during this year and there are still 60 people living with the virus. Every year since 1985 more people have tested HIV+ and so far in 2010 another five new cases have been reported. Thirty-five Caymanians with HIV went on to develop AIDS and died since the first case was reported. Today (1 December) on World AIDS Day the Cayman Islands joins the rest of the world in raising awareness about the virus and its transmission, as well as fighting against the stigma attached to the diagnosis and the complacency that makes people think it won’t happen to them.

The Red Cross has headed the campaign in the Cayman Islands since 2002, and the programme manager, Carolina Ferreira, says that while the known numbers in the Cayman Islands continue to appear low, the Caribbean has the second highest rate of HIV prevalence in the world, second only to Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, Cayman is vulnerable and the CIRC continues to advocate for greater preventative measures, such increased interventions amongst vulnerable groups and a greater push towards voluntary testing, among others.

"Part of our work is fighting the apathy and complacency that comes when people compare our local known numbers to global statistics," Ferreira explained. "In comparison to the figure of 33 million persons worldwide, our statistics of 95 persons since 1985 seems like something to cheer about. It isn’t. Every country which now has a high incidence of HIV prevalence once had low numbers. We have a limited window of opportunity to step up our response and work towards stopping and even reversing this trend before we become another global statistic, but we can only do it together, as a community."

As a result, Ferreira welcomed the support from a local bank which will pay for this year’s education campaign. Since the Red Cross joined the fight to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS it has worked to educate and raise awareness about transmission prevention and the stigma and discrimination people living with the virus suffer.

“Over the last eight years what started off as a pilot project has become a department, which runs awareness sessions, education programmes and social marketing campaigns, some of which have been hailed in the region as examples of ‘best practice’. This year we have received a much needed boost from HSBC Cayman, which has allowed us to launch our latest campaign. This is incredibly encouraging as this is a topic of tremendous importance that needs to be continuously discussed and promoted within our community,” she said, expressing her appreciation to the firm.

Local HSBC CEO Gonzalo Jalles said the bank was proud to support the Cayman Islands Red Cross. “This is a disease that not only affects the Cayman Islands but the entire world. As a global bank we focus on supporting educational projects that not only affect ourlocal community but communities around the world. Local educational programs like this one will contribute to the overall success of combating the disease globally,” he added.

With HSBC’s assistance, the CIRC’s HIV & AIDS department has launched its new campaign today, 1 December. Created and executed completely in house by the Red Cross with the community’s assistance, the campaign posters, ads and promotional material will roll out today but continue throughout the year.

“One of the most disturbing statistics about HIV is that approximately every ten seconds someone becomes infected with the virus. When it comes to AIDS, approximately every 15 seconds someone loses their life,” Ferreira revealed. “Our campaign, appropriately titled ‘every ten seconds’, aims to not only make people aware of that statistic but also draws attention to what exactly ten seconds feels like.”

The “every ten seconds” campaign is composed of four parts: t-shirts, awareness and education efforts, video public service announcements (PSAs), and audio PSAs. It has been officially launched on World AIDS Day and is accessible online at the Red Cross websit., The ads will enter rotation at Hollywood Theaters and begin radio rotations on dms broadcasting, Paramount Media and Radio Cayman.

The community awareness efforts began 27 November, when Red Cross Youth Peer Educators gave residents of Grand Cayman the opportunity to win this year’s campaign t-shirt while learning some facts about the virus, the situation in the Cayman Islands, and how one can protect oneself and their loved ones. Over three hundred people stopped by the booths, which were located at Foster’s Food Fair Airport, Hurley’s Grand Habour, and Kirks Supermarket location.

Their work is still far from over: the Peer Educators will be hosting awareness days at Clifton Hunter High School this week and nearly 200 young people are expected to attend the 3 day “take over”.

“It never ceases to amaze me how, when given the opportunity, the youth of this country will tackle head-on that which so many adults are hesitant to even acknowledge, and they need to be commended for that more often,” Ferreira added.

A candlelight vigil will take place this evening at Heroes Square and free HIV testing is available at the hospital and district clinics Friday.

Watch the ads on YouTube:

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Considering all the circumstances and odds, we are fortunate that the number of cases is still less than 100 in 25 years.  Without question, we should credit EzzardMiller who, when he was ExCo Member (Minister) of Health in the late 1980’s, created and directed a very aggressive AIDS awareness and prevention campaign that has served to keep this epidemic relatively at bay until today. Appreciation of course to those like the CI Red Cross, its officers and sponsors and health care professionals who carry-on Mr. Miller’s initiatives. There should never be complacency about this disease.  

    • nope says:

       What Mr. Miller did was create a mandatory testing policy which violates human rights,  and continues to drive this disease and the Caymanians who are living with it further in the shadows.  This has nothing to do with the work of the AIDS foundation or the red cross. I guess you missed the show when they were all in there together and the sparks flew.

      PS: the official number is under 100, but that is not the only list of persons who tested HIV positive.

  2. Anonymous says:

    For me a concern is that a single infected individual could do an incredible amount of harm in transmitting the disease throughout the community.

    If safe sex behaviors were ignored the geometric increase of this disease is frightening.

    The importance of teaching safe sex is vital to this community.

  3. wow! says:

     I, for one, would like to commend the effort of the red cross, the community members who participated (so many young people!), and carolina. I saw the video, and the print ad and i was happily surprised to see such a campaign originate in CAYMAN.  great job to all! 

  4. Anonymous says:

    Regarding the "low" HIV numbers in Cayman……..many people go off-island for medical tests because they don’t want their condition to become fodder for the marle road.

    Are the Cayman numbers really low or is then a significant number out there that are unreported?

    • Anonymous says:

      No doubt you will find some unreported in any society. Nothing peculiar to Cayman.

  5. every ten seconds campaign fan says:

     "every ten seconds" comes from the global statistics that, on average, there are approximately  3+ million new HIV infections every year.  This is an improvement- about 5 years ago it was every SIX seconds.

    That anyone would call this campaign "alarmist"  is beyond me- there are over 30 million persons living with HIV/AIDS in the world- that is what should be alarming! Not that a campaign highlights the rate of transmission!  

    As for the ones calling AIDS a myth… no comment!


  6. Anonymous says:

    the myth of aids much money has been wasted on one of the least prevalent and most preventable diseases in the world……there are a thousand more worthy causes than this……


    • zac says:

      Can you please clarify what the "myth" is??

    • Anonymous says:

      Gather around Ladies and Gentlemen, come and be shocked and amazed!!  Use your own eyes to see the World’s Most Stupid Comment above…

      You will be telling your children and grandchildren that you were there when someone posted the World’s Most Stupid Comment. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    • Anonymous says:

      you are an ignorant human being and I am ashamed that I share the same air as you.

    • Anonymous says:

      I see you’re playing stupid .. looks like you are winning too! How ignorant.

    • Anonymous says:

      Even in this important matter you are narrowing it down to dollars and cents? How shallow can one get. What is more important that Prevention and education about this dangerous disease? Are you really aware of what is happening in Cayman and the wider world community?

  7. Kmanite says:

    This reminds me of how backward and out-of-touch Cayman’s churches are in relation to sex education and their continued idiotic lobby against sex education in schools!

    AIDS, stds and teen pregnancy continue to increase, yet the local churches still want to bury their head in the sand and sing hymns and pretend these problems do not exist!


    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, I was shocked when I found out the other day that one of the private schools does not include sex education in their curriculum because the church won’t allow it! Whilst I fully understand that sitting down and having "the talk" is the parents’ responsibility in the first instance, it surely makes a difference for kids if they hear this together with their peers.

    • Dee Syple says:

      You could just stop the first sentence at "are".

      Your fundamentalist churches – they are funny.  And not very Christian.  At all.

  8. John Evans says:

    One thing would really help is the adoption of the rapid test screening for AIDS where the results are available in minutes rather than 2-3 days.

    This is at least as accurate (possibly more so because samples cannot be contaminated in the lab, mixed up or lost) as the current blood testing and so quick it could even be administered at the airport or port if immigration officers had concerns.

    I think the reason it hasn’t been adopted is a combination of ignorance and finance – despite widespread use in the USA rapid test is not regarded as a ‘proper’ medical procedure and it is reckoned to cost just $7 a time (or about $10 more over the counter in a pharmacy), which rather limits the amount the labs in Cayman could charge for the screening. 

  9. Anonymous says:

    "Every 10 seconds" is an interesting and terribly frightening statistic – any idea where this number comes from and which country the study was conducted rather than be too alarmist

    • Anonymous says:

      Those are world wide stats – given that we have every nationality represented here we should all be alarmed!

      Be vigilant about protection, education and stopping this disease.

  10. Anonymous says:

    My aunt is HIV positive. I’m sure we all know someone who is afflicted with or has died from this disease. And with an infection rate of every 10 seconds, we will soon know a few more.

    Well done Carolina and HSBC – good corporate citizens

  11. Anonymous says:

    every TEN seconds?? is astonishing!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    This articles states "Four people died of the disease in Cayman during this year and there are still 60 people living with the virus". Sadly that doesnt mean that there are only 60 people in Cayman with the virus, but rather that there are 60 people who have tested positive. I am pretty sure that there are many more who remain untested and that we have a higher rate than what is published.

    • Anonymous says:

      There remains an untested portion of the community in every country, this is not unique to the Cayman Islands, however, it is heartening to see that the government provides statistics which is an indication of what is happening in our society in relation to the disease.