The event comes at a strategic point for health officials in St. Kitts, as the island gears up for its annual St. Kitts Music festival, which runs from Thursday 23rd to Saturday 25th June, 2011.
The event is a collaborative venture between Scotiabank and the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership (CBMP).
The initiative, which started in 2008 as a pilot project in six countries, when slightly more than 2 000 persons were tested, anticipates further growth in 2011. The partners expect that 10 000 people across the Caribbean will be tested during this year’s campaign, improving on 8, 403 persons recorded last year and approximately 5,000 in 2009.
Across the region, free voluntary counseling and testing will be conducted by trained personnel from The Ministry of Health 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.
“Scotiabank is pleased to work with CBMP, not only to heighten interest in testing, but to reduce stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS,” said Marcia Gaudet, Country Manager, Scotiabank St. Kitts-Nevis. “The opportunity therefore to test in our branches reinforces our commitment to make voluntary counseling and testing as accessible, easy and routine as coming through our doors to do business.
“We continue to see our efforts to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS as a priority and Scotiabank seeks to respond compassionately and strategically. Supporting this growing program is part our ongoing commitment to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS in the communities where we work and live.”
CBMP Executive Director particularly highlighted the role of her membership in strengthening the initiative: “I congratulate 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.”
According to the Joint United Nations Program on AIDS (UNAIDS), 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.