The Department of Health (DOH) recognizes Thursday, June 8, as Caribbean/American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This is an opportunity for people to educate themselves and the community about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it.
Since the disease was first discovered in the early 1980s, significant strides have been made to curb the spread of HIV, but the impacts of these efforts are not felt equally around the world, especially in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean region has the second highest prevalence HIV rate in the world after sub-Saharan Africa; there are approximately 250,000 people living with HIV in the Caribbean region. Here in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a total of 1,114 persons have been diagnosed with HIV since 1983; as of December 2015, there are 632 persons living with HIV/AIDS. This is an alarming number given the territory’s small population of approximately 106,577 persons. Therefore, education and the implementation of prevention methods such as the use of contraceptives and regular HIV/AIDs testing are essential.
What is HIV/AIDS? HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, which is the virus that causes HIV infection. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.
How is it spread? HIV is spread through contact with certain body fluids from a person infected with HIV. These body fluids include: Blood
- Vaginal fluids
- Breast milk
- Pre-seminal fluid
- Rectal fluids
People cannot get HIV from: Sharing the same utensils (plates, fork, cups, etc.)
- Shaking hands or hugging
- Using the same toilet
Getting tested for HIV is the only sure way of knowing your HIV status. DOH offers free confidential HIV testing to the public, and results can be known in as little as ten minutes. Treatment and care are available for HIV that allows an HIV positive person to live a long and healthy life. In observance of Caribbean/American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, people are encouraged to know the facts and educate themselves and others about HIV/AIDS.
Here are some ways to help:
Talk with your health care provider about your risks for HIV.
- Get tested for HIV.
- Talk with family, friends and colleagues about HIV prevention, about why this day matters to you and about HIV’s impact on the community.
- Provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS.
- Volunteer at a local service organization.
- Ask local and elected leaders to increase their response to addressing the epidemic.
To learn more about HIV/AIDS or to get tested
Visit or call the V.I. Department of Health local offices:
St. Croix – Charles Harwood Complex, 3500 Estate Richmond (718-1311 ext. 3661)
St. Thomas-St. John – John S. Morehead Complex, Old Municipal Hospital (740 -9000, ext.4661)