As we mark another World AIDS Day, 30 years after the start of this epidemic, we have come a long way and are fortunate to today be standing in a better place than in prior years. But after 30 years, AIDS is still not over as yet and we have much more work to do.
Today the Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV (CRN+) commemorates World AIDS Day under the theme “Know Your Status”. This theme is meant to encourage every individual who do not know their HIV status to GET TESTED NOW. Many barriers to HIV testing remain and UNAIDS estimates that more than 9.4 million people living with HIV still do not know their status. Stigma and discrimination deter people from taking an HIV test. If people don’t know their HIV status, people who are living with HIV can’t start treatment, and people who are HIV-negative can’t get the knowledge and skills they need to keep that way.
HIV has always had an enormous impact on individuals and communities. Children, mothers, and fathers are affected by each new infection. HIV knows no economic or geographic boundaries. This diverse Caribbean of ours has the second highest HIV prevalence (1.3%) in the world outside that of sub-Saharan Africa, with 310,000 persons estimated to be living with HIV.
A renewed call to the people of the Caribbean: Get tested!
We must continue to shout out and pledge that stigma and discrimination end with me. Let us commit to reinvigorating our efforts to realize a world free of AIDS and to ending the scourge of discrimination.
I urge our fellow Caribbean countries to protect the basic human rights of ALL people, especially people living with HIV, including their rights to physical and mental health and well-being, social and economic opportunities, and full participation in shaping prosperous and sustainable societies.
Even as CRN+ joins the rest of the world in remembering those we have lost by marking World AIDS Day 2018, we must also take hope in the successes we have made to date. We call upon all Caribbean people who have not yet taken an HIV test to do so today. 54,800 people living with HIV in the Caribbean do not know their status. Knowing your HIV status is very important and the experience can help to either strengthen your efforts to stay HIV-free or guide you to the treatment and care services that will allow you to live a long, healthy and productive life with HIV.
Let us Live Life Positively.