Since 1985, The Bahamas has been involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS – promoting the message of abstinence, in the early years, and later reinforcing that message, while adding education and hands-on care for those living with the disease.
Throughout the country, many have been in the forefront of the proverbial battle and with the month of December being observed as HIV/AIDS month, this daily wants to single out a number of the local “soldiers” – Kevin Thompson-Delancy, Dr. Wionna Pratt, Dr. Alfred Brathwaite, Nurse Vivian Brathwaite, Sandra Mortimer-Russell, Mavis Ward, Lin Glinton, Marguerita Lockhart, Odette Knowles, Dr. Catherine Adderley, Calvin Parker, Joyce Pinder, Afrika Karamo-Miller, Jethro Dixon, Oswald Ellis and Nurse Rogann Rolle – in the fight and share some facts.
These “soldiers” or champions in the fight have founded and or are members of organizations – HIV/AIDS Survivors Benefit (HASB), Grand Bahama AIDS Awareness Committee (GBAAC) and the Red Rose Ball – leading the charge in educating young and old; providing care and medication for those living with HIV/AIDS and hosting fund-raising events to support ongoing efforts.
Between 1985 and 2014, 13,366 persons were diagnosed with HIV in The Bahamas. More than a third of these cases have died of AIDS related causes (35 percent).
At the end of 2014, 8,630 persons were listed as living with HIV in The Bahamas as determined by HIV surveillance methods. This means that roughly one in 50 persons living in The Bahamas in 2014 were HIV positive.
Males made up half (51 percent) of persons living with HIV (PLHIV).
In 2014 – 267 persons were diagnosed as HIV positive in The Bahamas. The majority of these persons had not progressed to AIDS (76 percent), while 24 percent developed AIDS by the end of 2014.
HIV was shown to affect persons in The Bahamas across a broad spectrum of demographic groups. While males and females have historically experienced similar trends in new diagnoses, males slightly outnumbered females in new diagnoses in 2014 (55 percent versus 44 percent).
Persons aged 30-39 accounted for 23 percent of new diagnoses and persons born in The Bahamas accounted for 66 percent of new cases in 2014.
There were two cases of mother-to-child transmission in 2014, accounting for three percent of births to HIV positive women in 2014. Ninety-three persons were reported to have died of AIDS in The Bahamas in 2014.
Between 2004 and 2014 – 1,255 persons died of AIDS-related causes in The Bahamas, with an average of 126 deaths per year. The age-adjusted death rate decreased from 38 to 22 deaths per 10,000 persons in this time period.
The majority of AIDS deaths in this time period occurred in males (58 percent), persons born in The Bahamas (84 percent) and 30-39 year olds (29 percent).
NEW HIV DIAGNOSES
The annual number of newly diagnosed HIV positive cases decreased by 28 percent from 370 in 2005 to 267 in 2014. Although new diagnoses have decreased among most demographic groups, cases among 15-24 year olds increased by 85 percent between 2005 (28 cases) and 2014 (52 cases). Cases among males in this age group tripled between 2005 (nine cases) and 2014 (27 cases).
While the overall number of new HIV diagnoses decreased between 2005 and 2014, the number of cases among persons who identified as being born outside of The Bahamas increased by 16 percent between 2010 (77 cases) and 2014 (89 cases).
As they continue to educate, care for and enforce their message of abstinence, the local champions in the fight against HIV/AIDS encourage residents to get tested, and know their status.
But more importantly, practice abstinence and if you cannot, have one partner.
To those living with the disease, the message is – take your medication and follow the instructions of health care workers; and, to the community and loved ones of those living with the disease – show love and ‘kill’ the stigma.
Published Friday, December 16, 2016