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A senior Saint Lucia medical official has disclosed that over 800 people in this country are living with HIV.

“As of September 2020 in Saint Lucia, there are 834 persons known to be alive with HIV. Only 349 of those persons are taking treatment for HIV,” says Senior Medical Officer, Infectious Diseases Unit – Dr. Gail Gajadhar.h

She made the disclosure in a message to mark World Aids Day 2020 on December 1.

The day is being observed under the theme “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility.”

According to Gajadhar, 2020 marks 35 years since Saint Lucia registered its first
documented case of HIV.

“We have come a long way since 1985, from a period where the only treatment on offer was multivitamins. Now, we have anti-retroviral treatment, also known as HIV medication that allows persons who are infected with HIV to live well and live long,” the senior medical officer observed.

“We have rapid testing for HIV. A finger prick, a few drops of blood and fifteen minutes is all it takes to determine whether you may be infected with HIV. Persons can get assessment and treatment at our public sexual and reproductive health clinics or privately, from physicians who are experienced in HIV management,” Gajadhar explained.

However, she noted that  despite strides in testing and treatment, stigma and discrimination regarding HIV continue.

“Remember, no one is immune to HIV,” cautioned the Senior Medical Officer, Infectious Diseases Unit .

Gajadhar  asserted that that people do not get HIV from touching, kissing, hugging, handshakes, sharing food or sharing a seat.

At the same time, she stated that if someone is sexually active and does not use condoms, they are at risk for getting HIV.

“Protect yourself,” the senior medical official declared.

“If you have HIV and have not started treatment, we are available to get you started. Testing is free and treatment is free. If you have HIV and have not told your partner, protect your partner, use condoms. Tell your partner; they need to know; they need to get tested. This brings up another well-known saying, ‘You are your Brother’s Keeper’,” Gajadhar observed.

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