U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Friday, December 1st marks the 35th observance of World AIDS Day, a significant occasion where the VI Department of Health stands in solidarity with the global community to remember, raise awareness, and renew commitments to ending the HIV epidemic by 2030. This day serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing global struggle against HIV-related stigma, honoring those lost, and a call to action to strive for a future where HIV is no longer a public health threat.
Jason Henry, Director of the Communicable Diseases Division for the VI Department of Health, emphasized the overarching theme, “340 Getting to Zero,” as a rallying cry for both public health professionals and the community to steadfastly work towards ending the HIV epidemic by 2030.
“Our annual day of remembrance is an opportunity to address HIV-related stigma, pay tribute to those we have lost, and galvanize efforts to achieve a day when HIV is no longer a public health threat,” Director Henry said.
The Communicable Diseases Division is dedicated to achieving the 90-90-90 targets: ensuring 90 percent of people living with HIV know their status, 90 percent of those aware of their HIV-positive status receive treatment, and 90 percent of individuals on treatment achieve viral suppression.
“While progress has been made in addressing HIV and AIDS in the Virgin Islands, there is still work to be done to ensure equity for all,” stated VI Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion. “The Communicable Disease Division is committed to providing comprehensive care, ensuring everyone in the Territory with HIV/AIDS has access to treatment, leading to an undetectable viral load and making HIV un-transmittable.”
As of 2023, data indicates that 822 individuals in the Virgin Islands have been diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.
To observe World AIDS Day on Friday, December 1st, the Communicable Diseases Division has organized the following events:
On St. Croix
Friday, December 1st: “Remembering Those We Lost” Ceremony set for 9 a.m. at the former Dial Rent to Own Building in Sunny Isles, in collaboration with Frederiksted Health Care.
Saturday, December 2nd: Distribution of free HIV self-test kits at the Crucian Cultural Group’s Mobile Night Parade.
On St. Thomas:
Friday, December 1st: Free HIV testing between 12 p.m. and 7 p.m. at “The Market” Tutu Park Mall.
Second Annual HIV/STI Summit Set for Dec. 7 – 8
The Virgin Islands Department of Health’s Communicable Disease Division, Primary Care Development Corporation and Northeast/Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center have partnered to sponsor a two-day HIV/STI Summit, December 7-8, 2023, at Westin’s Frenchman Reef on St. Thomas.
Presenters include representatives from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Columbia University-Irving Medical Center, the Northeast/Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center, University of Puerto Rico-School of Medicine and Centro Ararat, Inc.
Plenary and breakout session topics include:
- Status Neutral Approach to HIV Prevention and Treatment
- Cultural Responsiveness and Access to Care
- Partner Services in the Virgin Islands
- Whole Person Care: What’s It All About?
- Cultivating Equitable Care
- Improved Health Outcomes
- Sexual Health Conversations to Promote Prevention
- Models for HIV Testing: Getting Beyond 14%
- Gender Affirming Care
- HIV and Women
This summit brings together medical professionals and public health workers to collaborate on continuing the work to end the HIV epidemic in the US Virgin Islands. It aims to develop strategies for prevention, reducing stigma, enhancing workforce effectiveness, and synchronization with the STI program to end the HIV epidemic.