New approach to HIV
Efforts by the Ministry of Health to further mitigate the impact of HIV on society, as well as improve access to HIV testing services across the island were revealed when officials gathered at the ministry’s Culloden Road headquarters to launch a “Policy on HIV Testing in Barbados”.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, said “since the beginning of the expanded response to HIV in 2001, the ministry along with its key partners, had made “commendable achievements in the control of the HIV epidemic in Barbados”, while adding that “more had to be done in the fight”.
She said the ministry was looking to devise and employ strategies that would maximise the number of persons who are tested for HIV, made aware of their status and allow for infected persons to be referred for appropriate clinical care and supportive services.
“This national policy was designed with these strategic objectives in mind. It is evidenced informed, gender-sensitive and recognises human rights as it provides clear guidance on how HIV testing should be done in Barbados,” St John explained.
The CMO also maintained that central to achieving improved access to HIV testing services was the introduction of Provider Initiated Testing and Counselling, which is advocated by the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS in the context of a national scale up of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
“This plan seeks to provide guidance for PITC and the use of HIV rapid testing technologies in Barbados. Both initiatives will improve access to HIV testing services,” she said.
Stating that the policy would be the catalyst in the scale-up of HIV testing, St. John expressed the view that it was the Ministry’s aim to increase the number of persons who were tested for HIV.
She noted that the guiding principles articulated in the policy were in harmony with the recommendations of UNAIDS and WHO. St. John outlined that HIV testing in Barbados must remain confidential, conducted with the informed consent of persons being tested and accompanied by counselling.
The policy on HIV testing in Barbados also outlined the over-arching policy on HIV testing and the guiding principles, followed by additional strategies for the sub-policy areas.
These are HIV Rapid Testing; HIV Testing for Key Populations; HIV Testing of Persons with Disabilities; HIV Testing for Pregnant women; HIV Testing of Young People and HIV Testing in Special Circumstances.