NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (November 30, 2021) — The following is an address by Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister of Health and Gender Affairs on Nevis on the occasion of World AIDS Day 2021 which is observed annually on December 01.
World AIDS Day 2021 is being observed on the 1st of December under the theme: “End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics.” As previous years, the purpose of this international health day is to increase awareness, to remember lives lost and to encourage individuals, communities and countries in the fight to prevent and control HIV/AIDS.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the successes and gains achieved over the past four decades since the advent of the first AIDS cases. With the demands of the current pandemic depleting resources and straining the health care workforce, the task of ending the AIDS pandemic may seem daunting. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has also unsurfaced more economic, cultural and social inequalities that, if not addressed, will significantly threaten the achievement of the goal to end AIDS by 2030.
Every World AIDS Day observance is an opportunity for us to evaluate and refocus on how we can address the various challenges that persons living with HIV/AIDS and those at risk are facing. To ensure that the work continues and no one is left behind, all sectors within our communities will need to work together even more to solve the issues surrounding inequalities.
In Nevis, the commitment to ending AIDS, inequalities and pandemics stands firm. The Ministry of Health continues to work assiduously with our local, regional and international partners to ensure that services are reaching those in need. We still have work to do in order to reach vulnerable communities who are hesitant to access available services. Human resource challenges also exist but we continue to ensure that our healthcare workers are equipped with the technical expertise and resources to meet programme objectives and targets.
The HIV/AIDS coordinating Unit continues to offer oversight of the management of HIV/AIDS in Nevis. The unit works in collaboration with other public and private partners to ensure that services remain available for education, counselling, testing and treatment. Records show that in 2020, there were 269 counselling and testing sessions. To date for this year, 354 tests were carried out at our public laboratory. Currently, on register, there are 21 persons living with HIV. Twelve are male and nine are female.
I therefore encourage you to take the opportunity this World AIDS Day to get tested and know your status, and encourage friends and family to do the same. Please help us to address inequalities by sharing your experiences and suggestions on how we can serve you better and meet your needs. Individual and confidential counselling and rapid testing services are available free of cost at selected health centres and the hospital. Treatment by Antiretroviral Therapy and tests for monitoring are also offered free of cost.
For this year’s observance, I invite you to join the Ministry of Health on December 1st at the Artisan Village for a Lighting Ceremony and Walk to Charlestown. This activity will remind us that the AIDS pandemic continues and we cannot stop working towards our goal. Let us continue to support each other to ensure that we end inequalities, end AIDS and end pandemics.