Nevis Minister commends strides made in fight
CHARLESTOWN, Nevis - AS the Federation joined the rest of the world to recognize yesterday (Dec. 2) as World AIDS Day, the Ministry of Health on Nevis had commended the strides made in the fight against the disease in the Federation.
In her address to recognize the day, Nevis Island Administration Junior Health Minister, Hazel Brandy-Williams disclosed that there were 204 reported cases of persons with HIV/AIDS in the Federation as at the end of 2021, underscoring the need for more work to be done to protect the most vulnerable within society from the virus.
Globally, at the end of 2021, the number of persons estimated to be living with HIV was 38.4 million whilst 650,000 people died from HIV-related illnesses, with women accounting for most cases.
However, in the Federation, the trend is different as men have accounted for most cases.
Minister Brandy-Williams underscored the concerns that are being faced internationally with not many people having access to treatment, testing and lab services.
She also lamented on the continued stigma and discrimination being faced by many living with the ailment. However, Brandy-Williams commended the efforts being done locally to deal with the spread of the virus.
“Locally, we have made considerable progress on our journey to equalize in the fight to end AIDS/HIV. Testing service are offered for free in the public health setting. We have expanded the service with free rapid HIV testing at the Charlestown, Gingerland and Combermere Health Centres and the Health Promotion/HIV Unit will be offering the service again shortly. Persons can also get their HIV status checked at the lab through referral from their doctor,” explained Brandy-Williams.
She continued: “Another important service we offer is access to antiretroviral medication. Every person who has tested positive for HIV and is registered in the care and treatment programme is provided access to free antiretroviral medication.
“In times past, persons living with HIV had to rely on complex regimens which saw them taking as many as 20 pills per day. These caused many side effects and resulted in adherence issues. As these medications have evolved and more advanced medications have become available, we have kept abreast and have provided these medications. Now, patients can be down to as little as three pills per day with less side effects. The goal is to ensure that those who need it, have access to medication for as long as possible. Persons who take their regimens as prescribed are more likely to lower their viral loads which would lead to viral suppression, thus reducing HIV-related illnesses, transmission and death.”
Brandy-Williams assured the public that the Ministry would continue to implement policies “such as continuous education on stigma reduction among all levels of health care workers and will continue to strengthen our reporting mechanism for stigma and discrimination”.
“I am therefore making the call to all of us, no matter our profession, our religious beliefs or our status, to treat everyone with dignity and respect. By eliminating stigma and discrimination of all forms, we can continue our progress to ending HIV and AIDS by 2030,” the Minister said.