161 People Take Advantage of Free HIV Testing

Photo cutline: An AIDS Foundation volunteer takes a small blood sample from a finger for a rapid HIV test.
Sint Maarten was one of the first in the Caribbean to hold the annual Caribbean Regional HIV Testing Day this year, with an all-day event this past Saturday hosted by the Sint Maarten AIDS Foundation and Scotiabank. The free and confidential HIV testing was held at the Scotiabank branch in Philipsburg, and the day’s tally is 161 people in total, 82 women and 79 men. 3 people were found to require further testing.

"The number was steady throughout the day and once again, the strong showing from people from all walks of life is indicative that the message of the importance of HIV testing is getting through", remarked Dr. Gerard van Osch, the President of the AIDS Foundation. "We also had 25% getting the test done for the first time, which is in line with our previous testing events. This is also encouraging: once people come get it done, they see that it’s not a big deal and hopefully they will go on to be tested on a regular basis going forward".

An information table was set up for Men’s Health Month and in the afternoon, the front hall of the bank’s lobby was turned into a boxing ring for members from Marci’s Gym who demonstrated boxing and kickboxing to a crowd of test-takers and volunteers. The American University of the Caribbean (AUC) provided the bulk of the manpower required for the rapid HIV testing, individual counseling, and coordinating. "We thank the AUC Physicians-in-training for their assistance, and also the rest of the AIDS Foundation volunteers who helped the day run smoothly," said Kimberley Meijers, the Community Projects Coordinator at the AIDS Foundation. "We also had Market Garden in Simpson Bay donating free sandwiches for our volunteers. It’s with such partnerships with local businesses that we can continue to run these successful testing events for the public".

Free and confidential testing is also available at the AIDS Foundation office in Cole Bay (opposite Tropicana Casino) Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday mornings from 9am to 12pm. "It’s never a bad idea to get tested for HIV", stressed Dr. van Osch. "The earlier the detection, the easier it is to take control of it. And if you don’t have it, you get not only the peace of mind but also individualized advice on how to stay safe".

Caribbean Regional HIV Testing Days will take place throughout the region this week. This is the sixth year for the initiative from the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS and Scotiabank, and is expected to involve183 testing centers in 21 countries and territories throughout the Caribbean.