World AIDS Day Message 2016

(Premier and Health Minister Alden McLaughlin): As Minister for Health, I am very pleased to note the excellent work being done by the Health Services Authority, Cayman AIDS Foundation and the Red Cross to educate and inform our people on HIV and AIDS.

HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, remains a major threat globally and we in the Cayman Islands must do all we can to avoid  the spread of this incurable disease.

The Ministry of Health is committed to working with the Health Services Authority, Cayman AIDS Foundation and the Red Cross to ensure that education, opportunities for testing, as well as treatment and care, are accessible for all. I am very impressed by the continuing partnerships of these organisations that give support and guidance to people living with HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.

HIV is one of the world’s most serious health challenges and according to United Nations figures, at the end of 2015 there were approximately 36.7 million people living with HIV and AIDS. Out of this number, 1.8 million were younger than 15-years-old.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic in the early 1980s, including 1.1 million in 2015.

These are staggering statistics.

Unfortunately, we in the Cayman Islands are also affected by this global epidemic. Our first case was identified in 1985 and since then 145 people have been confirmed with the virus. Currently there are 39 males and 28 females living here with the disease.

Thankfully, there has been progress made in the global effort to address the epidemic, including treatment of the virus with new medicines. Yet we cannot become complacent.

In line with this year’s World AIDS Day theme “leadership, commitment, impact”, Cayman AIDS Foundation embodies these important roles throughout the year. I therefore implore each one of you to take heed of the organisation’s messages and the good work being done by partners in the Red Cross and our Health Services Authority.

In addition, we must all take personal responsibility for our actions.

On this note, free HIV testing will be offered from Monday, 28 November to Saturday, 3 December at a number of locations, so I encourage everyone to get tested and to know your status.

AIDS is a life-threatening illness. Therefore, we must ensure that all of us – young and old – adhere to safe sexual practices. If we do not abide by our own actions to prevent the spread of HIV, the consequences can be grave.

I also ask that you treat everybody with HIV with respect and compassion. While our health services provide medical care for these persons, we also need to offer our support as a community. We should never stigmatise anyone because they are HIV-positive.

Finally, as we mark World AIDS Day, please take a moment to remember those whose lives were claimed by this terrible virus. Let us not forget family, friends and neighbours here in the Cayman Islands, and overseas, who died too young, too soon.