The social and economic impacts of HIV/AIDS in affected countries remain a cause for concern. Stigma and discrimination, inability of countries to scale-up quality prevention programs, poor involvement of key populations in the HIV response, as well as the need for more supportive HIV policies continue to hinder progress within the region.
Realizing this need, the Regional Coordinating Mechanism continues to strengthen the National AIDS Programs in the islands of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, with the ultimate goal of eliminating HIV/STIs and TB by 2030. The Regional Coordinating mechanism has successfully negotiated a grant from the Global Fund to assist in furthering its objectives in capacity building of OECS states.
The beneficiaries of this grant include Saint Lucia, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and the Commonwealth of Dominica.
In January, 2017, three individuals from Saint Lucia participated in an HIV and Syphilis ‘training of trainers’ rapid test training in Trinidad. This training was the first of a two phased approach under the OECS Multi-Country Global Fund Grant, intended to develop local capacity in rapid testing so that they would be equipped to support further in-country trainings.
The second phase requires an assessment of the country team’s ability to conduct an in-country HIV and Syphilis rapid testing training workshop. To this end, the Ministry of Health has organized a training workshop on rapid HIV and syphilis testing currently being held at the Palm Haven Hotel. The training commenced on Tuesday May 16 and will run until Friday 19 May, 2017. It includes participants from the Ministry of Health, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations.
The facilitators of the training are Ms. Valerie Wilson and Ms. Arlene Darmanie, representatives from the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation (CMLF) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) respectively. They will be assessing the capacity of the trainers.
It is envisioned that at the end of this workshop, the country team will become certified trainers, capable of expanding local capacity in rapid testing of HIV and Syphilis. This will assist in the early diagnosis and treatment of individuals, particularly in pregnant women and thereby prevent the transmission of HIV and syphilis to their babies. It must be highlighted that the importance of this rapid testing is to reach the most vulnerable groups in our society and to equip them with the tools to mitigate the spread of these diseases to others.
The Ministry of Health looks forward to the expansion of these services to the public and reminds all of the need to continue practicing the ABC’s of STI prevention, which can be encapsulated in the following:
B: be faithful. For those who choose not to abstain, we remind them to be faithful and have one partner.
C: condomize; remember to use a latex condom every time you have sexual intercourse
D: do the test; take and HIV or Syphilis test and find out your status so that you can take care of yourself and protect others.