Health Minister, Donville Inniss????

"More people, especially men, need to get tested for HIV and those with HIV need to get diagnosed earlier and into care much sooner!"

This was the key message sent today by Health Minister, Donville Inniss as he addressed the launch of Regional Testing Day 2010, at Hilton Barbados. It was jointly hosted by the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership (CBMP) on HIV/ AIDS and Scotia Bank Caribbean Ltd.

Referring to Barbados HIV Surveillance Report 2008, Minister Inniss noted that between 1984 and 2008, more men than women were diagnosed with HIV.

He said: "Of the 3,166 people diagnosed with HIV, 1,989 (6 per cent) were men and 1,177 (37per cent) were women. During this same period more men than women were also diagnosed with AIDS. Of the 2,126 AIDS cases diagnosed, 1,448 (68 per cent) were men and 678 (32 per cent) were women.

The Minister also disclosed that between 1984 and 2008, 1,436 deaths occurred among HIV positive people in Barbados and this represented 45 per cent of the total amount of persons diagnosed with HIV.

In terms of HIV-related deaths the Minister said 73 per cent were males and 27 per cent females. Mr. Innis indicated that the risk of death among men with HIV was almost twice as high as the risk of death among women with the disease. He explained, however, that Government’s anti-retroviral programme, which started in 2002, had seen a reduction in the annual proportion of deaths among people with HIV, moving from 10 per cent to 2 per cent.

It was also revealed that the 12-month survival rates of women were consistently higher than that for men during this period. ??Minister Inniss pointed out that these higher survival rates for women were expected because they tended to be diagnosed at earlier stages. "Perhaps, overall there is a reluctance by men to go to the doctor anyhow and this, perhaps, is the wider issue we are facing," the Health Minister stated.

Further statistics offered by the Health Minister showed that at the end of 2008, there were 1,730 people known to be living with HIV in Barbados, representing 0.62 per cent of the Barbadian population. There were also 156 individuals newly diagnosed with HIV, plus 93 newly diagnosed AIDS cases and 37 HIV-related deaths. Furthermore, there were a noticeable preponderance of male HIV cases, male AIDS cases and males deaths among those with HIV. ??

The number of new HIV cases detected in 2008, he added, was similar to the number of HIV cases detected annually in previous years, while the number of HIV-related deaths in 2008 decreased by 26 per cent compared to the number of HIV-related deaths in 2007. ??

And, Mr. Inniss further observed that almost 60 per cent of people with HIV were at the advanced stage, by the time they are first seen at the Ladymeade Reference Unit for management of their HIV disease. He explained: "In other words, they are sufficiently ill due to HIV to warrant commencement of Anti-Retroviral drugs because they were diagnosed late and accessing care services late."

Stressing that he hoped enough fear had been injected into men to allow them to come forward and get tested, he added, "It should be appreciated that the percentage of the population with HIV is higher since there are many people with HIV who haven’t yet been diagnosed, hence the importance of HIV testing initiatives such as this."

The efforts of the CBMP and Scotia Bank Caribbean for Regional HIV Testing Day, June 27, were lauded, as Mr. Inniss assured them of his Ministry’s support and maintained that testing was a crucial HIV prevention intervention. He revealed: "Studies illustrate that when people learn of their HIV status early, they can access HIV treatment and care services offered and potentially achieve better outcomes by averting ill health. Those who are HIV negative are counselled and their vulnerabilities with regards to high risk behaviours are addressed as best as possible through education, counselling and support."??jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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