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Testing day tomorrow

The sixth staging of Caribbean Regional HIV/AIDS Testing Day takes place on tomorrow (Friday) under the aegis of the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS with support from Scotiabank in collaboration with the Pan Caribbean Partnership on HIV/AIDS.

The observance of Regional HIV/AIDS Testing Day 2013 kicked off with a Regional Media Launch at Scotiabank, High Street, St. John’s in Antigua today with bi-partisan support from Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, and Leader of the Opposition, Gaston Browne.

The event was officially opened by the Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda, Dame Louise Lake-Tack, and included a performance by LIVE UP Champion, Claudette Peters, with hosting duties conducted by Caribbean Media Icon, Julian Rogers, who is chairman of the CBMP Steering Committee and member of the CBMP Board of Trustees.

CBMP Executive Director Dr. Allyson Leacock explained: “We began by reaching out to Scotiabank and they readily said they would offer their branches as testing locations. Then we reached out to PANCAP who willingly contacted the ministries and departments of health and CBMP mounted a month long radio and television campaign to promote the testing sites in each country.

“This partnership continues today and has grown. After starting with just six countries and 2,300 people being tested, six years later over 20 countries are participating and over 30,000 Caribbean people have been tested — 13,000 were tested in 2012.”

Other members of civil society also work with this initiative, including all national AIDS programmes, People Living with HIV community, regional non-governmental organisations as well as the Faith Based community.

Scotiabank’s Vice-President for Corporate Social Responsibility, Kaz Flinn, underscored the bank’s ongoing commitment to the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“Scotiabank has deep roots and a strong commitment to communities in the Caribbean and we believe strongly in the work the CBMP is doing to promote HIV Testing Day and raise awareness of this important issue,” Flinn said.

“In 2011 the bank launched our global HIV-AIDS strategy focussing on the work the bank is doing to support these initiatives through the Scotiabank Bright Future programme. This strategy and the bank’s support of programs like this underscore our commitment to promoting the health of the communities where we live and work.”

Statistics show that at the end of 2011, an estimated 230,000 people were living with HIV in the Caribbean. An estimated 13,000 people in the region became infected with HIV in 2011 and around 10,000 died of AIDS.

In the Bahamas, the country with the highest prevalence in the Caribbean, almost three per cent of the adult population is living with HIV. This level of HIV prevalence is found only in sub-Saharan Africa, making the Caribbean the second most affected region in the world. Half of adults living with the virus are women.

Leacock said: “In order to build awareness about Regional Testing Day, the CBMP and its 112 top broadcast members from 24 counties throughout the region will design, produce and distribute a coordinated campaign of radio and television ads reaching tens of thousands of people for the month preceding the testing day. It is our way of showing how media matters in our efforts as Caribbean people to achieve an AIDS-free generation.”

The radio and television campaign began today at Scotiabank in Antigua.

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