(CMR) Minister of Health Dwayne Seymour on Tuesday (December 1), in recognition of World Aids Day, asserted his ministry's support for connecting Cayman Islands residents with access to testing and treatment for the illness. He also used the occasion to thank the Public Health Department, the Cayman Islands Red Cross, the Cayman Aids Foundation and other local partners, advocacy and community groups who are part of the movement to create an AIDS-free world.
The below is Seymour's World Aids Day Message:
On December 1, people all over the world join forces to show support for people living with HIV and for those who have lost their battle with AIDS. The Ministry of Health and the Public Health Department would like to publicly stand with them.
World Aids Day is an opportunity for the community to come together to take stock of how far we have come in our fight against HIV. Today, and every day, we remind ourselves of the need to keep focusing on efforts that will strengthen prevention measures, continued support for those living with HIV, and end the stigma that can often harm our fellow brothers and sisters.
2020 has been a year of all things health; highlighting, in often painful ways, just how much our health is key to our livelihoods and economies, to equality and human rights, to social protection and personal responsibility. It is against this background that this year’s theme for World AIDS Day is “Global solidarity, shared responsibility”.
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one of the world’s most serious public health challenges; however, there is a global commitment to stopping new HIV infections and ensuring access to HIV treatment. I am pleased to advise that this Government and the Health Ministry, remains fully committed to providing access to testing and treatment.
Testing is the essential first step to accessing treatment and one way of promoting our solidarity and shared commitment to preventing new HIV infections. Whilst the Government continues to play its part, each individual should be mindful of their own personal responsibility and accountability – in this way, we can address the issue of shared responsibility together.
Globally, as at the end of 2019, 38 million people were living with HIV/AIDS. Of this number, 36.2 million were adults and 1.8 million were children under fifteen years of age. This general overview includes the status of HIV/AIDS in the Cayman Islands; with an estimate of more than 70 people living with HIV on our islands.
Despite the availability of a wide array of effective HIV prevention methods, accompanied with massive scale-up of HIV treatment in recent years, UNAIDS cautions there has been unequal progress in reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to treatment, and ending AIDS-related deaths, with too many vulnerable people and populations left behind. Stigma and discrimination, together with other social inequalities and exclusion, are proving to be key barriers.
Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has seriously impacted the AIDS response and could disrupt it more.
Notwithstanding the challenges of 2020 we have come a long way with medical science and know that many of these people can go on to live happy, healthy and normal lives.
The Ministry of Health continues its pledge to work to reduce stigma, to support education and sexual health campaigns that are vital to ensure everyone enjoys positive health outcomes. Through global solidarity and shared responsibility, we will ensure that no individual is left behind in accessing treatment and care.