Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health/Social Development
The Virgin Islands is on the verge of claiming the eradication of mother to child transmission of HIV with no reported cases within the last four years.
An evaluating team from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) will visit the Territory July 7 to 8 to commence an evaluation to confirm the possibility.
Chief Nursing Officer and Family Health Coordinator, Ms. Jascinth Hannibal said the evaluation will be done through visits to healthcare organisations, discussions with providers and users and examination of processes and procedures.
Ms. Hannibal stated. “The elimination initiative aspires to have generations free of HIV and Syphilis and aims to reduce the incidence of transmission to 0.3 cases per 1000 live births, and the reduction of congenital syphilis to 0.5 cases per 1000 live births or less.”
Ms. Hannibal said access to professional birth attendants, increased coverage of routine HIV and syphilis screening, and increased access to HIV prophylaxis and syphilis treatment all help to reduce the incidence of transmission.
The Chief Nursing Officer stated that the Caribbean has been a pioneer in the elimination of measles and polio, and was the first region along with Latin America to embrace the target of elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis as public health problems.
She added, “Cuba was the first country in the world to eliminate Vertical Transmission of HIV and we are optimistic that the Virgin Islands will also be validated.”
The HIV, the virus that causes AIDS can be transmitted from mother to baby if specific actions are not undertaken to prevent the transmission.
These actions include, early identification that mother is HIV positive, early access to medication to treat the mother, preventative procedures at birth and early treatment of the infant including exclusive bottle feeding.
The BVI continues to have a relatively low incidence of HIV with 7 cases identified in 2015 and three this year.
Residents are encouraged to know their status, get tested and access treatment early in order to have a better quality of life. Persons are also urged to employ safe sexual practices which include having one partner, the consistent and correct use of condoms and abstaining from risky situations such as alcohol and drug use that impairs judgment.
Testing is conducted at the Family Health Unit and the HIV Foundation offices free of cost.
The Family Health Unit is committed to the development of family health programmes in the Virgin Islands using the life cycle approach.