Health Minister,Mary Isaac, has urged tolerance for people living with HIV amid reports that there were some 500 such individuals in Saint Lucia last year.
She asserted that one of the hurdles encountered relates to stigma associated with Aids and persons living with HIV and Aids.
“We have a silent disease because people don’t see it, people don’t know it is there and people don’t hear as a result of people being afraid – those people who live with HIV and Aids are very terrified of coming out,” the Minister said.
Isaac told the Times that this country has a very active HIV/Aids programme.
She disclosed that there are several entities and organizations that are doing a lot of work to ensure that people here who have HIV and Aids live a normal life.
However Isaac explained that there are some challenges.
She recalled that as of 2010 Saint Lucia was declared to have zero percent mother to child transmission of HIV and Aids.
“That takes a lot of work on the part of both people in the health care sector, administrative persons as well as our technical people,” she told the Times.
The Minister stated that considering where Saint Lucia came from, it was her opinion that this country has made tremendous strides in addressing HIV and Aids and taking care of people who are living with the conditions.
Nevertheless Isaac acknowledged that a lot of cases are not reported not only in Saint Lucia but throughout the region because of fear of stigma and discrimination.
The Minister said some people know that they are living with HIV and Aids but do not make a report and as such are not in the system.
“Five hundred is the number that we are aware of but I am saying there are people throughout the region who are not coming out and there are people who do not even know that they suffer from that,”she told the Times.
Isaac said as a result the real numbers are not known.
She explained that even some people who test positive for HIV and Aids go underground to protect themselves, their families, their jobs and their children.
“I am saying that as a result of the stigma associated with the disease, there are people who stay underground and there are people we are not aware of; but I think from where we came from; 500; – you can see that the people in the health system are doing a lot of work.”
World Aids Day is being observed today.