Published On: Sun, Dec 3rd, 2017

World AIDS Day Testing by the AIDS Foundation

St. Maarten Aids Foundation World Aids Day 2017

PHILIPSBURG — St. Maarten AIDS Foundation held a testing event at Gisela Salon on Cannegieter Street, Philipsburg, to commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1st, 2017.

It was a much smaller-scale event than the usual World AIDS Day testing the island has become used to, due to the lingering effects of Hurricane Irma. Scotiabank, which normally offers the use of their premises for the annual World AIDS Day event, suffered too much damage to host this year, and American University of the Caribbean, which normally provides physicians-in-training for the event, has not yet returned to the island. The AIDS Foundation, which was only able to re-open its office in Cole Bay two weeks ago, decided to go ahead regardless, and succeeded in testing 30 people at Gisela Salon on Friday. Condoms were also distributed for free.

“HIV continues to be a concern on the island, and we need to keep free testing available while making treatment accessible to everyone in need,” remarked Dr. Gerard van Osch, President of the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation. “The hurricane and its aftermath means HIV may not be top of mind for most people, but regular testing is still strongly recommended to know one’s HIV status. Knowing your status is the first step in prevention, while treatment not only keeps the individual healthy but also reduces chances of HIV transmission to others”. While some countries in our region are only now celebrating zero HIV transmission from mother to child, St. Maarten, both Dutch and French sides, had reached that stage many years ago, thanks to continued vigilance, increased testing and continued treatment.

Stigma and discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS however continues to be a problem for many persons in our community that live with this condition. We can only reduce this by continually approaching HIV as “just another medical condition that is currently perfectly manageable with treatment and while doing so reducing HIV transmission in our community”. UNAIDS has set the year 2030 as target to eliminate new HIV infections worldwide. That target will be hard to reach, but attainable if everyone is on board.

This year’s World AIDS Day motto was therefore: “Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships”

Alicia Torres, the HIV Testing Coordinator for the AIDS Foundation, would like to thank Gisela Arrindell, Veronica Rojas, and Yangela Rocio Pilier for their help during the event, especially for helping to bring in people to be tested. She would like to remind the St. Maarten community that the AIDS Foundation is once again open for free and anonymous testing at its office at Welfare Road #55, across from the Tropicana Casino, from 9am to 1pm Mondays to Fridays. The office telephone number has been changed to +1 721 522 1472.

Photo caption: Gisela Salon teams up with the AIDS Foundation for World AIDS Day.

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