By Theresa Goodwin
“Even though Carnival is here, HIV has not gone anywhere.” This is the message officials at the AIDS Secretariat are sending to residents as they prepare to roll out a typically robust prevention and awareness campaign ahead of the major summer festival.
Manager of the country’s National AIDS Programme Delcora Williams said staff members will, as usual, be present at all major events during the season, giving out condoms and sharing useful information on the importance of maintaining a negative HIV status.
She said it is very important for people to know that if they engage in unprotected sex, they put themselves at risks for contracting the dreaded virus.
“We go into a prevention mode where we educate people about the fact that the virus is still here and if they consume too much alcohol they could easily engage in unprotected sex. We want people to know what we offer and what can be done to protect themselves so that they do not suffer the consequences months later,” Williams said.
Williams also alluded to different strategies which could prevent people from contracting HIV.
She said while the Secretariat promotes abstinence and condom use, there are emergency options available for people who may find themselves in difficult situations.
One such option is called PEP or post-exposure prophylaxis which is a short course of HIV medicines taken very soon after a possible exposure to HIV to prevent the virus from taking hold in your body.
This must start within 72 hours after someone has been exposed to HIV or it will not work.
The second prescription option is PrEP Pre-exposure prophylaxis, which is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at a very high risk of getting the virus to protect themselves by taking a pill every day.
When taken daily, PrEP is reportedly highly effective in preventing HIV.
“We want to ensure that over the Carnival season nobody contracts the virus and that is why during this time of the year we sort of change our focus from testing to education and prevention,” Williams said.