Health officials call for end to HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination

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Health officials are renewing calls to end the stigma and discrimination individuals living with HIV/AIDS face, as the country celebrates the tenth anniversary of Regional HIV/AIDS Testing Day.
According to Minister of Health, Molwyn Joseph, while many milestones have been made in improving the health outlook of individuals with the disease, they are still not accepted in society, a reality which he said is putting people with the disease through a “psychological death”.
“We have pretty much removed HIV/AIDS as a death sentence because of clinical developments… people are living longer. So the real pain is the psychological sentencing, if I may put it that way,” he explained.
In the past, an HIV/AIDS diagnosis was considered a death sentence due to limited treatment options, however, people are now able to live full lives on medication.
Minister Joseph said the stigma continues to deter individuals from being tested, even if they know they are likely negative.
The minister was speaking at the testing day launch ceremony held on High Street in front of Scotia Bank yesterday.
The event was intended to provide free screening for individuals hoping to know their status at several locations across the island.
HIV/AIDS Counsellor and Tester, Oswald Hannays, said while stigma still exists, the country “has made strides” since the first case of the disease on island was discovered decades ago.
“We are unable to totally eradicate stigma and discrimination, but at least if we can get to the minimum, we will all be good,” he said.
He said this fear of being tested is not only putting individuals into “psychological enslavement” but for fear of being cast aside people do not disclose their status to their partners thus causing continued transmission.
Hannays said for the 10th  anniversary of the event the country has 17 different testing stations across the island.
He said the ministry has also offered to conduct testing at various business places with whom it has collaborated over the past ten years.

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