Public urged to take free HIV tests

| 23/06/2014

(CNS): The Health Services Authority (HSA), the Cayman AIDS Foundation (CAF) and the Cayman Islands Red Cross have all joined forces to organise HIV Testing Week.  Free HIV testing will be available for all Cayman Islands residents from Monday, 23 to Saturday, 28 June as well as voluntary counseling across the Islands, by trained and experienced personnel. The week’s activities coincide with international HIV testing days around the world under the continued theme “Take the Test, Take Control”.

With the Caribbean region having the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world, second only to Sub Saharan Africa, Caribbean and Latin American governments are taking critical measures to control the epidemic.

“These include new targets and benchmarks for expanding HIV testing and treatment by 2020 in an effort to reduce new HIV infections, late diagnosis and AIDS-related deaths, as well as to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV,” said Dr. Kumar, Medical Officer of Health.

He explained that since the first case in 1985 in Cayman 119 people have been diagnosed with HIV and 68 have developed AIDS. Forty two people have died while 17 people are living abroad while 60 people are living with HIV locally. 91% of the cases in Cayman were sexually transmitted; 57% via heterosexual contact. There were four recorded cases of
mother to child transmissions and the last reported HIV case was in 2004. 

Nurse Laura Elniski, HIV /AIDS Coordinator said the new targets from the Pan American Health Organisation of 90% of people knowing their diagnosis, getting treatment and reducing their viral levels to undetectable was a challenge.

“The 90-90-90 target is a huge task and can only be collectively achieved in the region through community involvement and by each sexually active person taking responsibility for their own health,” she said.  “By taking the test you can know your HIV status and take control.” 

Diagnosing HIV and starting treatment earlier means healthcare providers can dramatically improve patients’ health outcomes and prevent transmission of the disease, the nurse added.

Health minister, Osbourne Bodden urged residents to take advantage of the free tests.

“I support and applaud the work of the Health Services Authority, CAF and the C.I. Red Cross in their efforts to make HIV testing accessible and at no cost to the individual.  It is better to be in the know, than not.  The stigma needs to be removed from this disease and proper care and preventative measures taken,” he added.

Special arrangements have been implemented to facilitate confidentiality for tests this week and no appointments are necessary. Waiting time fortesting is usually no more than ten minutes. The results will be available in three working days and will only be given to the patient who must return to clinic where the test was taken to receive the results.  

See schedule for free HIV tests at the HSA clinics below

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Comments (11)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a qustion and apologies if it is ignorant one.  Should we be making HIV tests manditory?  In order to renew you drivers licence, to renew your health care coverage, get a business licence, each time you are admitted to the hospital etc etc?  Of course there would have to be regulations in place that would not allow someone with HIV to lose any  health coverage beneits.  Is it not a simple test that can be a part of normal procedures, yearly checkups etc?  would appreciate some feedback. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yes, but if you are HIV+ don't bother applying for a work permit renewal.  What sort of message does that send?

    • Anonymous says:

      That we are a responsible society?

      • Anonymous says:

        Tell me why destroying someone's career and tearing them away from their friends is responsible?  Unless by "repsonsible" you mean "utterly heartless and selfless" and you have a view of HIV from the early 90's.

        • Anonymous says:

          Because a work permit is not renewed, a career gets "destroyed"? And they are "torn" from friends?

          Lighten up and stop sensationalizing things. You make it sound as if a work permit is equivalent to permanent residence.

          • Anonymous says:

            We'll now you are HIV+ we are going to take your job from you, make you sell your house, take your family out of school and behave in a very unchristian way.

            • Anonymous says:

              You are putting one person's individual conveniences above the public good. And stop trying to use Christianity to justify your selfishness.

  3. Anonymous says:

    CNS, can you find out why this program is being prevented from using the rapid test or point-of-care kits that produce results in minutes?

    It seems crazy to use expensive lab facilities for this exercise when a simple $14.99 FDA-approved kit can do the same job without all the risks of samples getting lost, contaminated or mixed up during the testing process. 

    This has been going on for more than seven years so who is deciding that these kits cannot be used and how much is it costing us?  



    • Anonymous says:

      It's also interesting that the photo here is showing a 'finger stick' sample being taken but this program has always used venipuncture or in plain English – a needle.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Health Practice Commission threw a spanner in those works


    • Anonymous says:

      Cos if you use those for this excercise, people will ask why you cant do the same for permit blood tests and as we all know you cant go upsetting the money making merry go round that is Cayman…