The Daily Herald writes that Health Commissioner Bruce Zagers calls on the community to mark World AIDS Day this Sunday, December 1, by wearing a red ribbon as a symbol of solidarity in the global campaign to halt and mitigate the impact of the Human Immunodefi ciency Virus (HIV).
He remarks that observing World AIDS Day is also an occasion to reflect on our achievements in halting the spread of HIV on the island. “Under the leadership of the Island Government, the Public Health Department and the steadfast efforts of the Body, Mind and Spirit (BMS) Foundation, the island has developed a sustainable course of action in combating HIV for the 2013-2017 period. “The BMS Foundation has also drafted guidelines to ensure that health status based discrimination is combated within the workplace environment.”
The Commissioner commended the year-round youth HIV prevention programmes “Girl Power,” “Real Men” and “RESPECT” implemented by BMS and the Saba University School of Medicine (SUSOM) within the Saba Comprehensive School (SCS). These programmes have organically grown in recent years to creatively cover all family planning and balanced lifestyle issues, while at the same maintaining the focus on raising awareness about all Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). In light of a more complex understanding of the co-factors that put certain people at risk of acquiring STIs, the BMS Foundation has broadened its reach to incorporate awareness campaigns about addictions, bullying, family violence and human rights, but also on living with chronic diseases infl uenced by lifestyle factors. This drive seeks to incorporate HIV combating efforts within the broader framework of Public Health services. “As the Island Government seeks to consolidate the Public Health department, we looked pragmatically at the short and medium-term cost benefit of maintaining the programmes implemented by the BMS. It is on this basis that we allocated an incremental growth in the subsidy budget to allow these programmes to remain sustainable. “The island government remains committed to ensuring treatment; counselling and care services are maintained for people living with HIV. We appreciate the efforts spearheaded by the BMS foundation through collaborations with international donor agencies, private sector and local stakeholders, faith-based and non-governmental organisations.”
Commissioner Zagers pledges the island will remain steadfast in its goal of raising an HIV-free generation. He echoes the international call of “getting to zero: zero new infections, zero discrimination, zero AIDS-related deaths.” He also agrees with the BMS Foundation’s focus on continuing to improve access to prevention, treatment and care services especially for adolescents age 10 to 18 as this continues to be a vulnerable group as identified by the World Health Organisation.
The commissioner called on Saba residents “get informed and go get tested.”