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New HIV/AIDS infections declining in SVG

New HIV/AIDS infections declining in SVG

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Fresh from Antigua and Barbuda, where he was awarded for his “invaluable contribution and dedicated service”, HIV/AIDS activist Sydney Marshall has sworn to continue to fight for a zero new infection rate in St Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

Marshall, 56, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2001 and has since become a spokesperson for behavioural change and adherence to treatment, was one of six community animators who travelled to Antigua for training and recognition by the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Alliance (CHAA).

Animators are individuals who work along most at-risk persons, offering counselling and care for persons living with HIV and AIDS.

The security guard, who was involved in a training exercise on human trafficking and using the social media while in Antigua, says that he does not intend to slow down, but will continue educating and informing Vincentians about HIV and AIDS, and how to reduce the chances of becoming infected.

“Being that World AIDS day is around the corner (December 1), I feel I owe the Vincentian public, especially those people living with HIV, a message: we are getting there slowly, but surely.

“Zero new infections is the motto we are working towards,” Marshall stated.

“We are encouraging other persons who are living with HIV to use more prevention methods such as condoms, abstinence, which are behavioural changes,” he added.

Considering himself a man on the ground, Marshall believes that there has been a decline in the number of HIV infections in St Vincent and the Grenadines, which he credits in part, to the work being done by the local office of the CHAA. He lauded the other animators, led by Kevin Ferrara, for their work in that regard.

Statistics received from the National AIDS Secretariat (NAS) show that there has indeed been a decrease in the number of persons testing positive for HIV in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

As of September this year, 23 persons tested positive for HIV, with 16 AIDS related deaths.

In 2011, the HIV count was 45 and the death count was 22, with a 63 to 28 margin in 2010.

Although not quite at zero, Marshall also said that he is seeing a decline in the stigma and discrimination directed at HIV positive persons and those with AIDS.

“Long ago you could hear ‘AIDS this and AIDS that’, but now that drop, it don’t become a taboo any longer; it become a reality, because people are more educated about it.”

Marshall acknowledged that individuals are being assisted by the state, with the provision of antiretroviral drugs, but more work should be done with stakeholders if the battle against HIV and AIDS is to result in a victory.

He noted that some persons are still wary about confidentiality, among other issues.

According to Marshall, the animators are doing their best to reach their targets, and he called on all Vincentians to play their part in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“The real thing is getting it to zero new infection… the new infection is what we fighting against. The old ones we can maintain with the medication and treatment,” he said.

“We have a rapid response of youth coming up, who are really sexually active and a high rate of youth is suffering from herpes, so we are trying to protect them from getting infected. We want it to get to zero.

“Behavioural change is important.”

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