Persons in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are being warned to desist from engaging in risky sexual behaviours during this year’s carnival festivities.
This caution comes in light of data which reveal that some 31 new cases of HIV infections have been recorded here so far for 2018.
WEFM News obtained statistics from the National HIV/AIDS Unit which shows that these 31 new cases were recorded as of June 30, this year. This represents an increase, when compared to the 14 cases of HIV recorded here for the comparative period in 2017.
Of the new HIV cases recorded this year, 21 are males and 10 are females.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines recorded its first HIV case in 1984.
Since then, data from the HIV/AIDS Unit reveals that at the end of 2017 there was a cumulative total of one thousand, five hundred and forty-five (1,545) HIV cases in this country.
Azonya Vanloo, Assistant Director at the HIV/AIDS Unit, says most cases of HIV/AIDS here are among the 15-45 years age group, but for this year, the majority of cases recorded are among the 25-34 age group.
Mrs. Vanloo said heterosexual relationships are the main mode of HIV transmission in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
She noted that the high risk sexual conduct of persons, many of whom engage in unprotected sex, as well as the failure of some persons who know they are HIV positive but who fail to access care and treatment and continue to have sex with multiple partners, contributes to this rise in HIV cases here.
According to Mrs. Vanloo, stigma and discrimination towards persons infected with HIV/AIDS remains prevalent, and this in part contributes to some persons shying away from getting tested.
Assistant Director at the HIV/AIDS Unit explained that free HIV testing is available at the HIV/AIDS Unit on Mondays-Fridays from 8:00am-3:30pm, as well as at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital and at several Health clinics across the country.
HIV testing can also be accessed at the Planned Parenthood Association and at the various medical laboratories, however a fee is charged at those facilities to have the test done.
A pop-up clinic will be held the Calliaqua Health Center this Friday July 6, from 9:00am, and Mrs. Vanloo is encouraging persons to attend and access the free HIV testing that will be available.