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HIV fight back

One hundred and eighty three testing centres will be mounted in 21 countries across the region when the sixth Regional HIV Testing Day takes place this 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.

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.

The mounting of 183 region-wide testing centres is an increase on last year’s total with Trinidad and Tobago conducting tests at 48 centres up from 39 sites. Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dominica and Guyana and French Guyana have also increased testing sites.

This year’s staging of Regional Testing Day will also see a number of innovations. There will be expanded periods of testing; while June 28 is the official Regional Testing Day, Trinidad and Tobago is conducting tests between June 15 and June 29. Guyana will be testing between June 27 and June 30 with the continued support of the faith-based community, which will be hosting 11 of the 22 centres at churches across the country.

Antigua and Barbuda will be testing between the June 21 and the 29, the Cayman Islands will started on the June 22, French Guyana will be testing between June 25 and 28 while Barbados will be extending testing until June 30 when it will be conducting testing in three churches of three denominations and in three different parishes (St. Aidan’s in St. Joseph; Jackson Church of God, St. Michael and Truth for the Final Generation Adventist Church, Redman’s Village, St. Thomas).

In St. Lucia Rapid Testing will be the focus of Regional Testing Day 2013. The public will be provided with confidential, rapid and quality HIV testing services with results expected within one hour.

In the British Virgin Islands, in addition to HIV testing, a Regional Testing Day Health & Wellness Expo will be staged on Friday June 28 at The Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park with the support of 15 organisations.

A major component of activities surrounding Regional Testing Day is the four week media campaign mounted by the 112 top broadcasters in 24 countries across the region that make up the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS. This year apart from the broadcast of PSAs and interviews there a number of member stations have gone further.

In explaining how it all started, CBMP Executive Director Dr. Allyson Leacock said: “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 — over 13,000 were tested in 2012.”

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