Barbadians are being urged to take responsibility for their sexual behaviour and stop the stigma and discrimination relating to the HIV virus.

This strong message came yesterday from the new Chairman of the National HIV/AIDS Commission, Dr. Henrick Ellis, during a press conference at the Warrens Office Complex, to announce his appointment to the post.

Dr. Ellis said the biggest impediment to making greater progress in the HIV fight was stigma and discrimination. He continued: "We should not have to expend scarce resources – human, technical and financial – on this area… We should treat people as we want to be treated…"

He also proffered the view that people must be responsible for their sexual behaviour if the disease is to be conquered. "It is not necessarily going to take a government, an institution or civil society, but it is going to take everybody living in this country and the region to take responsibility for his sexual behaviour," he declared.

According to him, the island’s infection rate was continuing, particularly among the younger age group, and he pointed out that this was a worrying trend. "Clearly that is a challenge we need to look at, although our treatment programme has been relatively successful. People are living longer and they are not getting sick as often, so our mortality rate has dropped significantly, about 40 to 50 per cent, and our morbidity rate has dropped by a similar percentage.

"Clearly people are not being cured. We still have some becoming infected and the upshot of that is that more of them are joining this pool of people living with HIV and AIDS. So, we should to not rest on our laurels as it relates to relative success, but we need to probably pay greater attention to prevention. We really want to stop people coming into the pool," Dr. Ellis stressed.

The Chairman suggested that the country’s goal must always be to mitigate the negative effects of the virus, while looking at new strategies and revisiting some, in an effort to stop the disease from spreading.

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