The fight against HIV/Aids will not be won unless people start taking personal responsibility, especially men who chose to have unprotected sex outside of marriage and committed relationships.
So said Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh who also expressed concern about the fact that the Caribbean has the second highest prevalence of HIV/Aids in the world after sub-Saharan Africa.
Deyalsingh gave the feature address at the opening ceremony of the fifth meeting of the National Aids Programme managers and key partners held at Parliament yesterday. The three-day meeting focuses on regional collaborative efforts to support country responses by addressing common challenges in areas of evidence-based policy formulation and technical assistance.
On the issue of infidelity, Deyalsingh said he had listened to a local radio programme a few weeks ago on the topic of unprotected sex where some male callers admitted they were married or in committed relationships with one partner, but had numerous “outside” sexual relationships in which they used no condoms.
“If we do not admit the danger we are putting ourselves in, especially the men—the dangers they are putting themselves and their partners in—we will not achieve the 90, 90, 90 target by 2020,” the minister warned.
The 90-90-90 target – 90 per cent of people with HIV diagnosed, 90 per cent of diagnosed people on treatment and 90 per cent of treated people with fully suppressed viral load by 2020, is an initiative of UNAids intended to galvanise national and global action to control HIV and end the Aids epidemic by 2030.
Deyalsingh said such reckless behaviour by men contributes to a deterioration of morals and values and prolongs the fight against the virus, as efforts made could be easily corroded.
He said it is time that governments recalibrate the response to HIV/Aids, not only clinically, but in terms of a communication response that would lead to serious behaviour change, especially among Caribbean men. He said condom use is still rejected by men and such thinking must be immediately changed.
Deyalsingh urged women not give in to men who object to condom use as their lives could be at risk.
“I can tell you too many men in the Caribbean and in T&T still feel it is not macho to have sex with a condom and literally put so much pressure on their female partners to have unprotected sex and very often the females given in, especially if that male is the sole bread winner. “How do you combat that?” he asked
He said what was also daunting was that while more and more women are taking responsibility for their health and are being tested for the virus, men are not doing the same.
“But who is the primary vector, the primary carrier? We have to have an honest discussion in the Caribbean about how do we get our men especially and women to take responsibility to stop the spread of HIV,” the minister said.
SOURCE: www.guardian.co.tt (Geisha Kowlessar)
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