SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – On behalf of the people of Sint Maarten, I would like to commend the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation and HOPE for their commitment to organizing this event considering the circumstances following the devastation of Hurricane Irma and Maria on our island.
With a theme of “Reflecting on our past, preparing for our future” - The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial ceremony is a unique event that remembers and honors those who lost their lives to AIDS and gives the much needed support to persons in our community living with HIV and affected households.
As was told to me, this year’s commemoration emphasizes the need for people living with and affected by HIV to join hands and reflect on the past and on loved ones who have lost their lives.
As a community I know it is very important for each of us to sustain, strengthen and revitalize the awareness of the response to HIV by looking forward and preparing for a future free of HIV related stigma and discrimination.
If I should reflect on the past, when I was a young adult speaking about HIV/AIDS was very much taboo and intimidating to some extent. You almost felt as if, you were the person that brought up the subject, your peers would think that your interest was based on you or a close relative that may have acquired the HIV virus.
Fortunately, for us this has progressively improved over the years and speaking of HIV /AIDS and its impact on our community has for some time been very popular and common place.
As is common with many popular trends, overtime the interest dies and it’s no longer the hot topic it once was. This seems to be the case for HIV/AIDS.
Therefore, as we speak of the future and if we agree that the collective goal is to end the HIV epidemic then we must continue the great work that has been started over the past years.
Together, Government and organizations such as the AIDS foundation can collaborate and focus on specific areas such as
- Prevention through routine HIV testing
- Early HIV Treatment and care to reduce the risk of transmission
- Access to effective and new HIV medications
- Consistent and targeted awareness & communication campaigns encouraging testing and practicing safe sex
Sexual Education programs in our schools and the workplace must continue on a structural basis because if we do not equip the sexually active persons in our community with the proper information and awareness we know that the result of their actions may result in an unfavorable outcome.
In conclusion as you may know Government is faced with limited resources but this does not prevent us from committing whatever little we have to support programs that tackle prevention, treatment and care services for all affected by HIV.
I truly believe that only as a collective can we be successful against in combatting HIV/AIDS.
You can count on my support, I Thank you.