Free HIV Testing Day at ScotiaBank Saturday

POSTED: 06/24/11 12:27 PM

GREAT BAY – St. Maarten will join in a regional HIV and AIDS testing day initiative on Saturday that 18 other Caribbean countries will participate in on Friday. Public counseling and testing will be conducted on June 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Scotiabank Philipsburg branch.

“This public testing which we have been doing now for four years is indeed helping to raise awareness of HIV / AIDS,” Scotiabank Country Manager Elie Bendaly said.

“What is also important is that it’s helping reduce and eliminate the fear of the disease as well as any stigma attached to it. I believe my view is supported by the good turnout at the public testing. We have a still a long road to walk but I am confident we will get there.”

President of the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation Dr. Gerard van Osch also emphasized the importance of collaboration between the foundation and Scotiabank in several areas from fundraising, to HIV testing and sustainable development within the foundation.

On the matter of Regional Testing Day, he said, “The confidential HIV rapid test days have been extremely successful over the past two years. The public positively responds to the rapid tests that are used which give results within 20 minutes, the relaxed atmosphere of the venue and the professionalism in collaboration with the medical students of the American University of the Caribbean.”

Dr. van Osch added, “The past few years have seen an increase in persons, male and female, as well as young people who understand the importance of early diagnosis especially with the availability of effective treatment for HIV / AIDS.”

Scotiabank and Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership (CBMP) are pleased at the growth of their joint Regional HIV Testing Day. The initiative started in 2008 as a pilot project in six countries. More than 2000 persons were tested. There is anticipation there will be further growth in 2011. The partners expect 10,000 people to be tested during this year’s campaign, improving on 8,403 people recorded last year and approximately 5,000 in 2009.

Across the region, free voluntary counseling and testing will be conducted by trained medical personnel at Scotiabank branches in 14 countries: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, BVI, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Maarten, Turks and Caicos and USVI. In addition, other countries buoyed by the success of the initiative will also be conducting testing at various locations outside of Scotiabank branches. These countries are Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Suriname and French Guiana.

CBMP Executive Director, Dr. Allyson Leacock, particularly highlighted the role of her membership in strengthening the initiative.

“I congratulate the Caribbean media for their committed coverage of this important HIV prevention initiative now in its fourth year,” she said.

“This unique collaboration, conceived by the CBMP with media mounting a month-long campaign; the exemplary support from the private-sector in Scotiabank offering its locations as some of the testing sites; and the delivery of the technical expertise of Voluntary Counseling and Testing by the public sector through Ministries and Departments of Health, mobilized by PANCAP, is a model of the power of partnership in the response to HIV in our region.”

The Joint United Nations Program on AIDS (UNAIDS) states there are approximately 240,000 people in the Caribbean living with HIV and an estimated 12,000 people died AIDS-related deaths in the Caribbean in 2009.

The 2011 Regional HIV Testing Day campaign was officially launched in Kingston, Jamaica on May 27. Regional Testing Day has expanded from its pilot program in 2008, when the CBMP and Scotiabank in collaboration with regional ministries of health piloted the Caribbean’s first Regional HIV Testing Day in Barbados, Jamaica, Anguilla, Antigua, St. Lucia and St. Kitts. In 2010, testing was conducted in 16 countries and 14 in 2009 at Scotiabank branches and other locations.


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