As TT prepares to join the rest of the world in marking International Women's Day on Monday, Minister of Social Development and Family Services Donna Cox is encouraging the public to know their status and get tested for HIV and Aids, as women and young girls were seen as vulnerable to infection.
Cox explained the disparity in figures between HIV infection for men and women through cultural and economic gaps as she spoke during the launch for a brochure on disclosing one's HIV status, at the HIV/Aids Coordinating Unit, CL Financial Building, Port of Spain on Friday.
"Research has shown that women account for more than half the number of people living with HIV worldwide.
"Young women between the ages of ten to 24 years are twice more likely to contract HIV than their male counterparts.
"HIV disproportionately affects women and adolescent girls because of vulnerabilities created by unequal cultural, social and economic status."
She also noted the introduction of the brochure coincided with the recent Zero Discrimination Day which was commemorated on March 1 with the theme – zero discrimination against women and girls.
Chief technical officer Michael Reid said the ministry was committed to raising awareness and promoting treatment for people from all backgrounds who were infected with the disease.
He said the prevalence of infections among women and girls was something that attracted the concern of international bodies.
"Although the global HIV response has been significantly transformed since the first case, too many women and adolescent girls remain vulnerable due to their unequal social status.
"In fact the UN expressed particular concern regarding the vulnerability of women to infections by partners who do not know their status or refuse to reveal it."
Reid said the ministry's approach to tackling the disease was guided by the UN's Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and would be partnering with all stakeholders to achieve these objectives.
Cox said despite progress made over the years in the inclusion of HIV-positive people in society, revealing one's status remains a challenge as the government seeks to empower those living with the disease.
She said while people living with the disease were most apprehensive of being victimised or discriminated against, it was the first step towards receiving the legal protection and psychosocial support available under the ministry.
"Disclosure whether authorised or not is usually rooted in the fear of being vulnerable to stigma and discrimination often resulting in poor medication adherence and psychosocial issues such as isolation, anxiety and depression.
"The issue of disclosure remains paramount to the HIV landscape. Among the benefits derived from the HIV disclosure are improved medication adherence and greater access to care and support.
"Disclosure allows HIV-positive people to own their status, providing legal protection against discrimination while facilitating empowerment and creating opportunities for addressing psychosocial issues."
Cox said the brochure included information and advice on how people should disclose their status to those around them.