Nevis Health Minister’s address in observance of World AIDS Day 2017

Mr. Mark Brantley, Premier Elect of Nevis and leader of the Concerned Citizens Movement (file photo)
Mr. Mark Brantley, Premier Elect of Nevis and leader of the Concerned Citizens Movement (file photo)

NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (December 01, 2017) — The following is a statement by Hon. Mark Brantley, Minister of Health on Nevis on the occasion of World AIDS Day on December 01, 2017.

Citizens of Nevis,

I greet you on this day 1st December 2017, internationally recognized as World AIDS Day. As we celebrate under the theme: “The Right to Health,” we are reminded of the age old quote “Health care is a right, not a privilege”.

It is a universal right where every individual in our society is entitled access to safe, effective, quality and affordable healthcare which they need regardless of their socioeconomic status.

This theme is further enhanced by the World Health Organization’s World AIDS Day poster slogan “Everybody Counts”. For the 36.7 million people living with HIV globally, and those who are vulnerable and affected by the epidemic, it is the WHO’s intention to highlight the need for countries to reach the goal of Universal health coverage.

In Nevis, our statistics reflect that 70 persons have been diagnosed since 1987. Currently, there are 16 enrolled in our care and treatment programme. We continue to encourage all persons to get tested, know your status and seek care if diagnosed HIV positive.

I say to you, our HIV response has been robust and this is evident in the Federation recently receiving validation, as one of the first countries in the Caribbean to eliminate mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis.

I wish us to reflect for a moment on this monumental achievement for our healthcare sector. My heartiest congratulations and deepest thanks to all our healthcare professionals, who have made this milestone possible for our island and our Nation.

The Nevis Island Administration (NIA) endeavours to attain the Sustainable Development Goal of “Ensuring Healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages”. We do so by providing services at our various health facilities which seek to promote, protect and restore health.

I speak of our ongoing health education and health promotion programmes that continue to encourage healthy lifestyle practices such as good nutrition, exercise and safe sexual behaviours. Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) and Provider Initiated Testing and Counselling (PITC) services for HIV are also offered at our health facilities and the Health Promotion Unit.

We are also now able to provide immediate testing and results allowing members of the public an easy and immediate way to know their status. Persons living with HIV have access to free care and Anti-Retroviral Treatment.

These services are implemented by trained clinical staff including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians among others. Investment in these and other health professionals is continuous, through short-term and long-term training courses as we seek to strengthen our human resource capacity.

Health education services in this area have also been exemplary, through the services provided by the staff at the Health Promotion Unit.

As we look forward to the development of health infrastructure in 2018 and beyond, our population can expect to see improvements at the Alexandra Hospital, as well as at the community level which will further strengthen our mandate.

The sustainability of any health system is contingent on a strong health financing mechanism. A National Health Insurance Committee is currently working in this regard and we look forward to bringing this initiative to fruition in the next 12-18 months.

It is a national effort for all of St. Kitts and Nevis which has the imprimatur of both the Federal and the NIA governments. It is our stated goal and intention to “leave no one behind”.

As we participate in World AIDS Day activities over the next few days, I also remind you of your individual responsibility when it comes to HIV prevention.

After over 30 years, since the first case of HIV/AIDS was diagnosed, the ABC’s still apply. Abstain from sexual activity, be faithful to your partner and use a condom consistently and correctly every time you have sex.

Let us ensure that our people live healthy lives and continue to make positive contributions to our nation’s development. After all, our Nation’s wealth lies ultimate in our Nation’s Health.

Let us continue to work together to ensure that we eliminate HIV and AIDS from our midst.

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