Chairman of the Tobago Aids co-ordinating committee Dr Kale Ferguson is reporting a decrease in the number of new HIV infections in Tobago.
Speaking at a ribbon display and candle lighting on Sunday during the commemoration of International World Aids Day hosted by the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development at the Fort King George in Scarborough, Ferguson said changing people’s views towards the disease remains a challenge.
“The number of new cases is actually declining. It is the same trend that we see at many other places in the western world. The only problem is the stigma and discrimination which has to be tackled. Yes, we have workplace policies but we have to see what further we have to inject into that conversation. The other one that is difficult is how to gather information accurately and effectively analyse it to guide our response.”
He said the committee will continue working with other stakeholders to heighten awareness on the disease.
“We want to tackle five key focus areas – the national response to HIV/AIDS, to defeat stigma and discrimination, to increase the prevention, increase the awareness among the youths and among the most at-risk population, to work together with the other divisions also together with the NGOs to try to co-ordinate that effect so that together we can defeat the HIV epidemic,” the chairman said.
In her address the division’s administrator, Dianne Baker-Henry, called for the focus to be placed on educating the young people on the change in attitudes needed towards curbing the impact of HIV-Aids.
“If we really have to impact and create the kind of behavioural change that is necessary, we really have to reach those young ones. They are going to be the key in terms of the kind of message and the kind of reach and the kind of impact. I am imploring, get back to the schools, noise the airways, get to the places where the children are because they would be the ones that will really have to carry forth to save the generations to come.”
Chairman of the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) Ingrid Melville paid tribute to the many people who fought to ensure that medication can be accessed by all and not just for those who could afford to pay.
“There are many who were fighters, many who back in 2000 would have lobbied in the World Aids conference in Durban, for developing countries such as ourselves to have access to medication. At that time it was only those who had money could benefit, as medication was not in the public health system. Many of them have gone on without seeing that reality,” Melville said.