BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Friday 19th February 2021) – National HIV/AID Coordinator Dr. Mathias Ofre is advising members of the public to include getting an HIV test as part of their regular medical check-ups as well as to understand the importance of knowing their status to get early treatment so as to enhance their quality of life should they test positive for the virus.
He made the appeal during an interview with this media house at a free rapid HIV Testing event organized by The National AIDS Secretariat within the Ministry of Health dubbed ‘Operation Safe streets Safe Sheets’ under the theme ‘Love is Protective; Share the Love not the Virus!’ held on Friday 12th February 2021- two days before Valentine’s Day- at the Independence Square in Basseterre.
Notably, the event was branded as one in keeping with the period of love and heightened emotions as members of the public were asked to take note that by February 14th, all lovers were advised to have within their possession a lover’s license in order to be registered as a safe lover.
Speaking to the essence of rapid testing, Dr. Ofre pointed out that individuals experienced only a maximum of 15 minutes, spanning the education session then to the testing site and moving to a section to get free gifts like condoms and top- ups.
“A rider’s license. Operation Safe Street- Safe Streets. When the street is safe, our sheets are safe. That’s why we say share the love in this month of love and not the virus,” expressed Dr. Ofre.
“Do your check-up regularly just like car services. We also do a yearly medical checkup, we can also do an HIV test…you know your status and then you go.”
Asked about the current status of individuals infected with the virus, he stated: “Basically, we have about approximately 189 infected and some 111 persons are under treatment at the moment and that’s why we encourage, get tested to know your status and we educate you on how to proceed to get your treatment and live a very long and productive life. We are preaching the end of discrimination…the end of stigmatism, so what we are preaching is go out and get your test and find out what status you are and we are here to really help you all the way.”
Commenting on the response from the public, he expressed: “I would say that actually I’m very mesmerized based on the turnover; people are very excited to get their test done, and we also use the opportunity to encourage as many people as possible to get the test done.”
In observance of the female to male ratio participation at the public health event, Dr. Ofre remarked: “Honestly we’re seeing both. Of course, there are more females who’ve turned up than males. That’s why we encourage that everybody should turn out. I’m surprised to see more young people coming out as well as the elderly folks are also coming out. As I tell persons, it doesn’t matter how old are young you are; you can get exposed to the virus, you might not even be having sex but you can get exposed to the virus just by going to get a tattoo done or if you’re using drugs like heroine and all of that stuff so it’s always advisable to do your test to know your status.”
He said different areas of the island will be visited to do the rapid testing.
“The 23rd of this month we will be in Old Road and different sections, we’ll be having the rapid testing done so please when you see our tent, wherever you see us come out and do your test, it is free, it is important and I want the public to know that in this month of love, we should share the love and not the virus.”
Photo: National HIV/AID Coordinator Dr. Mathias Ofre (at right wearing black) seen visiting one of the gift areas at the event where a participant is being tended to by workers (Spokesman Snap)
Employees within the Ministry of Health Felicia Dore and Nia Belle go about a demonstration on how to safely open the female condom during the Free Rapid HIV Testing event (Spokesman Snap)