Chief Nursing Officer with responsibility for family health, Ms. Jascinth Hannibal explained that the number of persons infected with HIV in the Territory might be more than 126, because the reality is that persons seek HIV treatment overseas, and some enter the BVI with HIV and only access care at a later stage of their disease.
On June 16 it was announced that the Territory recorded three new cases of HIV for this year, while seven new cases were recorded in 2015. It was further stated that since HIV monitoring commenced in the Virgin Islands in 1985 there have been 126 cases identified with an estimated 38 persons living with HIV without a diagnosis of AIDS and 38 known deaths.
However, Nurse Hannibal opined that the figure might be higher: “We estimate that there are about 56 persons that are living with HIV within the Territory. We know that there have been 38 known and we also acknowledge that there are some persons that access care and treatment outside of the Territory and we would not have those as part of our statistics.”
“We also know that persons sometime leave and several persons who have started treatment with us, for instance, have left the Territory; and some who come into the Territory and access care and treatment at a later stage of their disease. So we have to factor all those numbers when we are looking at our statistics,” she stated.
In driving the point home that testing is critical the Chief Nursing Officer said: “When we look at the number 127 we might say oh it is very small for the Territory, but we accept that this just what we know; and there is quite a bit of unknown. That is why we are encouraging people to know your status.”
Prosecution For Persons Wilfully Infecting Others
Nurse Hannibal announced that under BVI Laws persons who knowingly infect others with HIV/AIDS can be prosecuted.
In making the point Nurse Hannibal the healthcare worker said: “I do know that the BVI criminal code does make allowances for those cases, so in the case that someone is willingly infecting someone, and that it can be proven then there are judicial processes that can occur.”
“So the onus is on the persons who are engaging in sex. Yes, we acknowledge that there are some criminal activities going on, but for consensual relationship just make sure those individuals are using protection,” she added.
Worrysome BVI Statistics
Between June 1985 and December 2007 the BVI had 68 known cases of HIV infections. It was stated that in 2008 the Territory had nine new cases, and that the number did not increase in 2009. In 2010, however there were seven new cases recorded, and six in 2011. In 2012 there were five new cases discovered.
Up to December 2011, the Territory recorded 99 HIV/AIDS cases with 35 AIDS related deaths. The BVI has a 1.7% prevalence rate, which is high for a small population of approximately 30,000. This is compared to a prevalence rate of 1% for the entire Caribbean region.
Previously there were approximately 60 persons living with HIV in the Territory, but records at the Health Ministry shows only 27 persons accessing treatment at Peebles Hospital.