Minister for Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs in St Lucia Moses Jn Baptiste, observing World AIDS Day, December 1, 2022, disclosed that eight people have died from AIDS in St Lucia from January to October 31, 2022.
World AIDS Day is observed on December 1 every year around the world and is usually a time for reflection and solidarity with those who are affected and their families, and it is a time to plan even more decisive actions.
“As of September 30, 2022, there are 917 persons living with HIV in St Lucia. Of them, 298 persons in care are actively collecting HIV medication, 56% are male, and 44% are female. Eight AIDS-related deaths occurred in St Lucia from January to October 31, 2022.
According to the Health Minister, St Lucia has come a very long way since diagnosing its first known case of HIV in 1985.
All HIV prevention, testing, treatment and monitoring services are readily available, and no one is denied access to those services.
“We have moved from no treatment for HIV to being able to treat all persons living with HIV in St Lucia.”
The theme for World AIDS Day 2022 is Equalize.
“Let us join our own local organizations, the Ministry of Health Wellness and Elderly Affairs, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, the Pan American Health Organization and all those who have championed the HIV/AIDS cause over the years in this year’s observance,” the Minister said.
HIV is a virus which attacks the cells that help the body to fight infections. A person infected with HIV becomes vulnerable to other infections and diseases.
HIV spreads when an uninfected person gets in contact with blood or genital fluids from someone with HIV.
A person who has HIV most likely will develop AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome); therefore, treatment is absolutely a must to prevent serious illness and even death.
Jn Baptiste says, “HIV medication, also known as an anti-retroviral treatment, is available to all persons living with HIV and is free of cost from all pharmacies that distribute HIV medication. Any person living with HIV can get their doctor’s visits, monitoring tests and other necessary medications from within the Public System without any cost to them.”
He adds that public services can be accessed within the Sexual and Reproductive Health Clinics by calling to make an appointment or by doing a walk-in in an emergency.
“There is help; please access that help and let medical professionals help you to have a better quality of life if you have become infected.”
“A finger-prick, a Rapid HIV test and 15 minutes is [sic] all it takes to find out whether you may or may have HIV. This is a free service provided by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs. In addition to this service being available at the Sexual and Reproductive Health Clinics, you may access Rapid HIV testing services in all eight health regions in Saint Lucia. Medication to prevent the transmission of HIV called PrEP, also known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is also available, free of charge to the recipient.”
This year UNAIDS is urging all agencies and individuals to tackle inequalities that help to perpetuate the AIDS pandemic.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic and other global crises have slowed the treatment and focus on HIV/AIDS, causing many more people to be at risk.
The international community hopes that by 2030 AIDS will no longer be a global health threat.
To achieve this ambitious goal, we can work with our local and regional partners to advance actions that will end stigma and discrimination.
“There is help for all. I urge all persons to reach out to our Civil Society Organizations and health professionals to encourage safe practices and healthy lifestyles and help us to EQUALIZE awareness, access to treatment and opportunities for all,” Jn Baptiste remarked.