By Carlena Knight
As the world prepares to celebrate World AIDS Day on December 1, officials here in Antigua and Barbuda have outlined plans to target the Hispanic community specifically.
The outreach programme is scheduled to take place on December 2 from 8am- 5pm.
HIV Counsellor, Tester and Spanish Outreach Officer Lidia Martinez while speaking on the Observer AM show yesterday gave brief details on the scheduled event.
“We will be doing HIV testing. While in the testing room, we are going to conducting some literary prevention sessions and talk more about STI, HIV and prevention,” Martinez said.
This is not the first initiative for the Hispanic community organised by the AIDS Secretariat as the group for sometime have been ramping up educational and testing drives.
“We go into clubs and bars sometimes when we are doing outreach to the Spanish community. We talk to them about prevention of HIV and safe sex. We explain to them where we are located and how they can get access to free HIV and syphilis tests, how the procedures go and so on,” Martinez explained.
Along with the Red Ribbon Drive, the group will partner with Rotaract this Saturday for testing from 9am-3pm while on December 8, they will go to the Red Cross to conduct more testing.
Although significant focus is on the corona virus, officials from the AIDS Secretariat are also encouraging the general public to get tested.
The call was made on Monday as it was revealed by HIV Counsellor and Educator Oswald Hannays that since the country recorded its first case last year, the number of HIV tests done at the office has dropped significantly.
This he explained, was because of the covid restrictions and the fact that the Secretariat have had to resort to appointments only.
“Testing is only done by appointments only and the appointments for now go from 8:30am-11:30am. So, we would have three 8:30 slots, three 9 o’clock slots and so on until 11:30, but for this week of activities, testing will be extended until 5pm. So, persons who are coming off of work for 3pm has an opportunity to come in and to have access to services,” Hannays revealed.
The extension is part of the week of ongoing activities the Secretariat is conducting to commemorate World Aids Day.
In Antigua and Barbuda, there have been 1,355 persons diagnosed with HIV since 1985.
Of that number, 907 are presently living with the disease, 448 have died and 376 are presently accessing treatment through the AIDS Secretariat.
Persons interested in getting tested can call 462-5975 to schedule an appointment.