POINTE XPRESSS: Activities marking HIV/AIDS week, which include World AIDS Day on Wednesday, begin today across Antigua and Barbuda with reports from the AIDS Secretariat indicating that HIV positive cases in the country are on the increase.
Additionally, the secretariat is reporting that too many people who test positive are relying on natural or home-made remedies rather than seeking help from the established healthcare system. The announcement comes as the AIDS Secretariat is issuing a reminder to members of the public that the disease is still a health concern for the country.
National HIV/AIDS Programme Manager Delcora Williams says while the national spotlight has shifted to the COVID-19 pandemic, her department has been continuing its mandate to educate the public about HIV/AIDS and the need for individuals to practice measures to avoid contracting or transmitting the disease.
She reported that since it was first detected in Antigua back in 1985, a total of 1,355 persons have tested positive for the disease. Of that total, there are 907 who are alive, described as Persons Living with HIV.
So far this year, there have been 40 confirmed new HIV cases with three deaths. There were 29 new positive cases in 2020. Last year, there were seven HIV/AIDS deaths, down from 17 for 2019.
Williams explained that when a person tests positive for HIV the department starts what it calls a ‘care and treatment programme’.
However, she acknowledged that many persons do not present themselves for treatment, but instead rely on natural remedies. When these fail and they become quite ill, it is only then that they seek care from the health system. Currently, there are 376 persons in the care and treatment programme.
Scientific developments in the fight against HIV/AIDS have reduced the disease to one that is treatable, but patients must adhere to rigid health protocols in order to maintain good health and longer lives.
These are people who follow-up their treatment on a regular basis. Williams also reported that, so far, approximately 100 HIV patients have presented themselves for COVID 19 vaccinations.
These have gone well with no reports of side effects.