The Think [RED], Do Safe slogan for the [RED] Campaign for 2009 is coming to an end, as World AIDS Day is fast approaching and the anticipation of the new slogan will be unveiled. It gives us time to reflect on the progress that we have made over the last two years.
After Talking and Thinking [RED] many people have taken the initiative to know their HIV status. Physicians have also taken the initiative to have their patients tested. This is clearly reflected in the amount of HIV tests requested at the St. Maarten Laboratory Services N.V. (SLS). There has been a noticeable increase of tests and we can expect that there will also be an increase in the number of new HIV individuals.
According to a report from the St. Maarten Laboratory Services, during the month of July a total of 605 HIV tests were administered; August saw a slight decrease with 502 HIV tests done; September saw a rise again with a total of 555 HIV tests administered; October also had an increase with 598 requests for HIV tests, and between November 1 to November 12 a total of 232 HIV tests has been requested.
Although worldwide there has been a noticeable decrease in HIV infections, the numbers of new infections on St. Maarten are expected to rise, because more HIV tests are being done.
According to HIV/AIDS Programme Manager, Suzette Moses-Burton, "It is important for us, as a community, to understand that the only way we can continue to progress is by knowing our status and protecting it. When the diabetes foundation holds their drives- new diabetics or borderline cases are discovered. In the same way when more HIV tests are conducted we will expect new cases to be discovered. We have to keep testing to get a realistic picture, ensure care and treatment, and protect our HIV status be it negative or positive. There is still the perception that than when one is HIV positive they can not get infected again. But the truth of the matter is that you can get re-infected with a different strain of the HIV virus and create other complications like the efficacy of your medication. We remain hopeful that as we move into year three of the campaign that the community will continue to be involved and take a more pro-active role in accepting the responsibility for taking charge of their sexual and reproductive health by ensuring that they have the information they need to avoid infection."
The HIV/AIDS Programme Management Team sees the increase in the number of tests requested at the SLS Lab both by patients and doctors as a clear signal that people are more aware about the disease and want to know their status.