It is in this context that an official of the National AIDS Secretariat is issuing a word of caution to revelers, especially as it relates to sexual activity, to act with some degree of responsibility.
According to information recently quoted by the Chief Medical Officer, since the early 1980s, the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis has recorded 314 incidences of HIV/AIDS.
Irresponsible sexual behaviour can contribute to an increase in this figure and the National AIDS Programme Coordinator, Gardenia Destang Richards, has offered words of advise for persons to adopt during the Carnival season and even beyond: abstain, be celibate, and if not, protect yourself!
“As we approach the festive Christmas and Carnival season, the National AIDS Secretariat and the Ministry of Health would like to remind persons of the reality of HIV and AIDS and would want to caution persons to take the necessary actions to practice safer sexual skills; whether it is being celibate during the period, abstaining, certainly being faithful to your one partner who is HIV negative and taking whatever precautions they may need to protect themselves and others. It is also important to inform and to be knowledgeable so that they can make correct choices. We encourage persons to take this opportunity to become aware of HIV AIDS issues and how they can protect themselves and others.
“Well, there is always the prophylactic or condom. We encourage persons who cannot be celibate…for what period or for whatever reason, to use a condom consistently which means every time they have sex and correctly.”
Carnival and feting usually involve the consumption of alcoholic substances, which can impair one’s judgment “and things that you would not have necessarily done before, you may be doing during that season” Richards explained and further noted that “we want persons to be aware before the carnival season of the realities of HIV, how they can be infected and how they can protect themselves. So that when they find themselves in a situation where they see that they need to have sex and they can’t abstain or be celibate, they would make the best choices to protect their health and others.”
The National AIDS Programme Coordinator noted that the practice of responsible sexual behaviour not only protests individuals and their partners but also assists with the national fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS.
“It would first help us with our overall objective and goals which is basically to reduce the number of incidents in the Federation and to mitigate the impact of persons living with HIV and AIDS. So the less persons we have getting infected, it actually would be a significant assistance to the national AIDS programme and the country in itself. Because we have to remember that getting HIV is not just getting HIV and that’s it. There are a lot of social implications and financial, emotional, there are lots of issues surrounding that…that the government currently pays for, for the most path. So for us in the National AIDS programme and the Ministry of Health, the less cases of HIV we have, obviously the better we are.
It also means that you have more persons who can work, who are productive, who are not ill and who can contribute to the productive line of employment. So it supports the whole social development of the country when we have fewer cases of persons getting infected and certainly it assists with the impact of having to care for persons living with HIV and AIDS, Richards expressed.