World Aids Day Address 2016 delivered by Minister of State with Responsibility for Health, the Honourable Wendy C. Phipps

Fellow Citizens & Residents of St. Kitts & Nevis:

Today, Thursday, December 1, 2016, our Federation joins the rest of the international community in observing World AIDS Day 2016. This year’s World AIDS Day observances are being held under the theme: “Hands Up for #HIVprevention”. This year’s theme has been deliberately chosen to showcase the various aspects of HIV prevention; and what prevention means for vulnerable groups such as people living with HIV, key populations, and young women and girls. As with all prior World AIDS Day observances since its inception in 1988, this year’s activities are meant to achieve a three-fold objective:

1) To remember those who have lost their lives to HIV;

2) To acknowledge the progress made in response to the global
epidemic;

3) To renew the United Nations’ commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic – now with a targeted date of the year 2030.

As we pause to remember the 35 million persons who have lost their lives to AIDS – and we stand in support of the 78 million others who have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic – we acknowledge how critical it is for us to do everything in our power to ensure that all infected persons receive treatment. We also must commit ourselves to the fight against stigma, discrimination and abuse of any kind, to which vulnerable groups are so often subjected. It is also important that we fully inform ourselves about HIV, in order to stem the tide of ignorance and fear surrounding the infection that has transcended gender, age, race, social status and geopolitical boundaries.

To date, there are approximately 36.7 million persons globally who are living with HIV, but only 18.2 million of them are receiving treatment. What is equally disheartening is the fact that women – and children under the age of 15 – account for almost 20% of the persons living with HIV. It is also sad to
note that between 2015 and 2016 alone there have been over 2 million people newly infected with HIV.

It is useful to for us to see how our Federation stacks up against these sobering world statistics. Here are the facts:

1) There are approximately 270 persons in our Country living with HIV – this number being garnered from the total number of reported cases minus the total number of reported deaths.

2) Of this figure, only 61 persons are accessing treatment, representing just 22.6% of our HIV positive persons.

3) About 18 new cases have been confirmed as of October 2016 – 7 females and 11 males. This annual incidence rate is rising, due to the increased amount of testing being conducted. In previous years, the annual average number of new cases has floated been between 12 and 15.

4)
As of November 2016 a total of 3583 HIV tests have been done in St. Kitts alone.

5) There is a continuing trend whereby more males than females are being infected.

At the CARICOM level, we are witnessing some 83% of reported cases of HIV being in the 15-54 age group. According to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), 50% of this group are between 15-34 years old.In light of the foregoing realities regarding our national and regional HIV incidence, it stands to reason that as a country we must do everything possible to spread the word about the prevention of HIV, and advocate for all and sundry to know their HIV status by getting tested. Messaging and advocacy regarding safe sexual practices must be aggressively sustained – to save lives and prevent new infections. As such, our National AIDS Secretariat and, by extension, the Ministries of Health on both islands, have embarked upon a series of activities to mark World AIDS Day 2016. These activities include the following:

 Abstinence Drive in Schools – which was held from November 28-30, 2016

 Red Day – today, December 1, 2016, as a show of solidarity in the global fight against HIV and AIDS. Staff in the Ministry of Health are encouraged to wear red, as well as the general public.

 HIV Rapid Testing Day – also being held today, December 1, 2016, in the parking lot at the Ministry of Health at Bladen Commercial Development, Basseterre

 Condom Drive –
on December 2, 2016, in Independence Square. The Public will also be given a second opportunity to have rapid testing done.

The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis encourages everyone to participate in the various national HIV awareness programmes and activities for World AIDS Day 2016. The Ministries of Health on both islands take this opportunity to salute all healthcare workers who continuously educate the public about HIV and AIDS, the dangers of unsafe sexual practices, the need to get tested for HIV, and the importance of accessing life-saving treatmenT. Finally, the Federal Government also wishes to remind us all that HIV is everyone’s business: if HIV affects one of us, it affects all of us. Let us continue in the fight against HIV and AIDS and put our “Hands Up for
#HIVprevention”.

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