CBMP Director calling for media to double efforts at sensitization


For Caribbean Regional HIV testing Day…
Caribbean Regional HIV Testing Day, is Sunday June 27, and Executive Director of the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership, (CBMP) Dr. Allyson Leacock, who is also World AIDS Campaign Chair, is calling on media houses across the Caribbean to double their efforts at sensitising the public to the importance of getting tested for HIV.
Dr. Leacock, who is also on the Executive Board of the Global Media AIDS Initiative (GMAI), of which the CMBP is an arm, made this call while addressing the local media and HIV-related NGOs recently at two highly interactive “LIVE UP” presentation at HBTV Studios, Home Stretch Avenue.
“LIVE UP” , launched in 2007, with catch words –  ‘Love, Protect, Respect’, is the Caribbean’s first media-led regional initiative that links people together with one message of hope and possibility, and inspires all to consider what is within their power to stem the spread of HIV.  CMBP, the executing arm, was launched in Barbados in 2006 and is now operating in 24 countries with the participation of 96 media houses

While appreciating that each country of the region will have its own national day of testing, and contending that no amount of testing will ever be too much, Dr. Leacock nonetheless thinks it will be a good idea for the region to aggressively promote testing on that day.
Dr. Leacock is also urging health facilities, Non Governmental Organisations , faith-based organisations and other stake-holders engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS to support this June 27 effort.
Statistics show that whilst Guyana has always done extremely well on national testing days, this country’s total for the Regional Day of Testing in 2009 was relatively low compared to some other countries.  To this end, it is expected that the effort on June 27 this year will be approached with more zeal.
Regional Testing Day provides another unique opportunity to advance universal access to HIV prevention services in the Caribbean; and further, to help reduce stigma and discrimination.
The objective of this special partnership initiative is to heighten public interest in Voluntary Counselling and Testing as an effective mechanism for preventing the spread of HIV and reducing stigma and discrimination.  “We want to use the power that we have in the media to raise awareness … and to fight stigma and discrimination  and to change behaviour ultimately, “ Dr Leacock concluded.
June 27 is also National Testing Day for the United States of America.  Launched in 1995, on this day, organizations across the nation engage with communities to promote early diagnosis and HIV-testing.
Unless persons are tested for HIV, their status cannot be determined.   This means that even though he/she may have HIV and be at the stage where he needs to go on therapy, this cannot be done, since his status was not established.  This effectively robs him of the opportunity of benefitting from antiretroviral medication which helps prolong and ensure an improved quality of life, provided that is used as prescribed by his doctor.
The (US) Centers for Prevention and Disease Control (CDC) estimate that one out of every five persons living with HIV in the United States is unaware of his HIV status (serostatus).  Testing therefore provides the opportunity for people to learn of their HIV status and to gain knowledge to be able to take control of their lives.