700 Plus persons infected with HIV in St. Lucia
St. Lucians are being urged to practice safe sex and to recognize their right to make informed decisions about their health.
The advised comes from the OECS Commission and the Ministry of Health which together launched a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that underscored the importance of safe sex and the need to be tested for knowledge of one’s HIV status.
The PSA seems to have been well timed as the country is fully engaged in attempts at eliminating HIV infections among its population of which 700 plus are suffering from, according to Dr. Mitchelle Francois of the Ministry of Health.
The launched of the PSA, at the conference room of the OECS Commission in Castries, was one of other initiatives undertaken by the OECS and the Ministry of Health to eradicate the virus in the country.
Francois spoke of having more venues for rapid HIV testing and strengthening the Ministry’s testing procedures, and adding the testing of syphilis to their list of what should be done for persons requiring health care.
“At the ministry of Health we work towards the elimination of AIDS. We have to date approximately 700 plus persons living with HIV in St. Lucia. This in itself is an accomplishment for us. We have seen the introduction of antiretroviral therapy and this has prolonged the lives of persons living with HIV. We have persons living with HIV for 20 – 30 years who have been very productive in society and continue to have families. AIDS is no longer a death sentence. Getting the HIV virus is no longer a death sentence and although we continue to see a decrease in the number of new cases yearly we acknowledged we still have work to do,” Dr. Francois said.
Persons with HIV in St. Lucia are receiving antiretroviral treatment and will continue to do so in the future. The government is the one bearing the cost of the treatment, which was introduce in the country in 2006.
Another achievement recorded by the Ministry of Health in its fight to eliminate AIDS in the country is the prevention of HIV from the mother to the child and having in its employ a full time coordinator to monitor that programme. Complimenting this programme is another in which an HIV infected mother is not allowed to breast feed her newborn for six months but is provided with a breast milk substitute for the child. This is provided free to the mother all in an effort to maintain free transmission of HIV from mother to child.