Basseterre, St. Kitts, November 30, 2015 (SKNIS): As part of the activities to commemorate World AIDS Day, the National AIDS Secretariat is inviting corporate partners to take part in a new initiative dubbed “Colour Your Support,” designed to proactively prompt the partnership of the business community to join the HIV/AIDS campaign.

National AIDS Programme Coordinator, Gardenia Destang-Richardson, revealed that while the International World AIDS Day commemoration theme is “Getting to Zero – Zero HIV Infections, Zero Deaths related to HIV/AIDS and Zero Discrimination” the “Colour Your Support” Display will highlight the local theme of “Making every step count, down to zero.”

“We’re trying to engage our business partners, where we want to solicit a positive response from them,” Mrs. Destang-Richardson said, revealing that the initiative will commence December 01. “For those businesses that have agreed, we will be providing them with a red-ribbon display with shoes on it, to literally depict making steps towards zero. Some of the displays will have high heels, stilettoes, while some will have converse shoes on them, and we are asking them [business places] to display this in their windows or someplace public, and also to provide little red ribbons to their patrons as they come in on that day.”

One activity, that took place prior to World AIDS Day, is visits to schools which ran from November 16 to 27. Health educators visited primary and high schools, but the focus was mainly on the primary school children in grades five and six.

The National AIDS Programme Coordinator emphasized, “one of the steps towards getting to zero is talking to children, who are not yet engaged in sexual activity, about abstinence and delaying sex and being informed to make wise choices through abstaining.”

It was also revealed that the “Ride a Bus” activity which involves health educators journeying on a particular bus route and talking directly with passengers about HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)s, will be repeated. Mrs. Destang Richardson noted that this has been undertaken for several years and has “always been well received.”

The annual National Testing Day has been expanded to a National Testing Week and runs from December 07 to 11. Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) Providers who administer the HIV test, will be visiting selected sites such as business places and churches to carry out testing throughout the week. The customary Testing Day culminates the week on December 11 and once again takes place in Independence Square.

“We have a goal by 2020 to have 90 percent of people being tested and knowing their HIV status, so we definitely have to increase and scale up our testing efforts,” the National AIDS Programme Coordinator said.

It was further revealed that Point of Care (POC) Rapid Testing will be used throughout the testing week.

“The good thing about this testing is that we’re using a different method,” Mrs. Destang-Richardson said. “In the past we’ve used the venous method, where you have to actually draw blood from the vein but now we’re using the finger prick. With this method, the result will be provided in a much shorter time, most definitely on the same day. That’s the future of HIV testing for us.”

She noted that persons who take advantage of the free and confidential HIV testing can have their test results given at the same venue, by a trained VCT Provider or request to have it provided at a later time within the confines of the Provider’s office, or be sent to a particular health centre or to the office of their personal doctor.

The National AIDS Programme Coordinator demonstrated how the ABCs of HIV can be applied to the Christmas and Carnival period. She emphasized the need to be part of the count down to zero and encouraged everyone as they take part in the festivities of the season, to be safe whether through Abstaining, Being faithful, Consistent protection-every time, Doing the HIV test for themselves and Educating themselves and others about the facts of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections.

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