Towards an AIDS-free generation
The following is a statement by president of the Barbados Family Planning Association Rev. Ruth Phillips to mark World Aids Day.
On this World AIDS Day 2014, the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) joins the national, regional and global community on its thematic focus of Getting to Zero: zero deaths from HIV, zero new infections and zero discrimination. This theme brings attention to the shared goal of the global community that by 2030 we can achieve an AIDS-free generation.
We now have the scientific evidence that by expanding testing and treatment programmes we can reduce the viral load in entire communities and end HIV as we know it. At BFPA, we have been critically reflecting on our contribution to the national HIV response and are pleased to report that the association has been working assiduously to reach this ambitious goal of an AIDS-free generation.
In our antenatal services, we encourage all pregnant women to know their HIV status so that their unborn children can be born free of HIV should a mother be HIV-positive. This has helped the Government meet global targets for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
As we celebrate our 60th year as an association, we know our longevity derives from providing an environment that is welcoming to all and free of stigma and discrimination. Negative attitudes to sexuality often prevent persons most in need of treatment for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI) from seeking testing and treatment for fear of judgment about their sexual activities. The BFPA does not stigmatise HIV testing nor do we offer HIV clinics which single out people living with HIV or communities at risk for HIV.
As Barbados’ leading provider of sexual and reproductive health services, we treat HIV testing as a routine part of the clinical encounter between physician and patient. We have a sterling reputation for confidentiality and as a result have done 900 HIV tests to date for 2013 surpassing our 2012 numbers as more people become comfortable with our integrated provider driven approach. We hope to increase the number of HIV tests that we conduct by becoming a Ministry of Health approved provider of the HIV Rapid Test which will give results within minutes to our clients.
We share the vision of the Ministry of Health and National HIV Commission that there is no better way to end the HIV epidemic in Barbados than for rapid testing to be routinized and made widely available in various settings so that increasing numbers can know their status and get into treatment programmes. We today call for resources to prioritized for scaling up testing and treatment programmes and to continue to resource community-based programmes like ours and other grass roots NGOs which reach groups most at risk for HIV.