Governor Kenneth E. Mapp has proclaimed Thursday, December 1, as World AIDS Day in the United States Virgin Islands and urged all citizens to take part in activities and observances designed to increase awareness and understanding of HIV/AIDS in the community and as a global challenge, to take part in HIV/AIDS prevention activities and programs throughout the territory, and to join the global effort to prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS.
World AIDS Day is a day to remember those who have been lost to this deadly disease and give compassion and hope to those who live courageously with HIV/AIDS every day. It is important that we continue to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in order to help prevent further spread of this disease.
Part of an effective response is to help collaborative partners work together nationally and internationally to prevent the spread of HIV. The goal of the Virgin Islands Department of Health and community-based agencies [is] to increase public awareness about how AIDS is spread. World AIDS Day provides an opportunity to focus local, national and international attention on HIV infection and AIDS, and to disseminate information on how to prevent the spread of HIV. The global epidemic of HIV infection and AIDS requires a worldwide effort to increase communication, education and a united action to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“The goal of the Virgin Islands Department of Health and community-based agencies funded by the federal government is to increase awareness about how HIV is spread. The Government of the Virgin Islands as well as key policymakers should make every effort to meet the targets they have agreed to in the fight against HIV and AIDS.”
HIV disease continues to be a serious health issue for parts of the world. The HIV epidemic not only affects the health of individuals. It impacts households and communities. In the Virgin Islands, there were 134 new diagnoses of HIV infection reported between 2008 and 2012. At the end of 2012, 576 people are living with HIV in the Virgin Islands. HIV has claimed the lives of 446 Virgin Islands residents since the epidemic began. Because there is no cure for HIV at this time, treatment is a lifelong process.
Only 30 percent of the HIV positive population in the Virgin Islands was receiving care in 2012. Lowering the amount of HIV virus in the body with medicines promotes the life span of a person living with HIV infection and greatly reduces the chance of passing the virus on to others. Only 19 percent of the Virgin Islands HIV population achieved viral suppression.
While the statistics are alarming, new medications, scientific advancements, and treatment and prevention efforts give us reason for hope. “Poverty, instability, infidelity, intravenous drug use, co-infection with other STD’s, violence, lack of access to adequate health care and ignorance all contribute to the epidemic. Fear, shame, anger, ignorance and injustice worldwide are currently causing people living with HIV/AIDS unnecessary pain due to the stigma associated with the disease,” said Mapp in the proclamation.