Portland men brave AIDS tests
Gareth Davis, Gleaner Writer
PORT ANTONIO, Portland:
AN UNPRECEDENTED number of men, wanting to know their HIV/AIDS status, turned out at the Port Antonio square in Portland yesterday to get tested as part of World AIDS Day activities in the parish.
Julian Crooks, behaviour change communications officer for the parish, said the large turnout of men was commendable.
"It is very unusual to see so many males coming forward," Crooks said. "The signs are very encouraging, and I view this as an indication that persons, especially males, are very concerned about their health status, and are determined to stay free from HIV/AIDS."
She added: "We have never seen this happening before, and I must commend those young men who have boldly come forward."
Up to 1:45 p.m yesterday, more than 63 men got tested for HIV/AIDS.
"Normally, it is very difficult to reach the males. They are risk takers, and so most of the time they prefer not to know if they are infected," said Crooks.
"Instead, they prefer to use the status of their female partners to determine theirs, and this is a high risk. If they are not aware that they are infected, they could not only pass on the virus to other persons, but that infection could turn into AIDS, which is more difficult to treat."
Free to all
Nigel Webber, a taxi operator who got tested yesterday, said he wanted to know his status and was making use of the opportunity which was free to all who participated. World AIDS Day was held under the theme, 'It's Your Right: Claim it'.
Said Webber: "I am now living with my wife and two children. I have been married for more than eight months now, but I just needed to know whether or not I am clean, as I could have been infected during previous relationships. It is not anything to be scared about, and I just did what I had to do."
Crooks said everyone should take the necessary steps to know their HIV status, in order to ensure good health, longer life, and better family relations.
Approximately 300 people in Portland are knowingly living with HIV, while 150 are believed to be living with the disease but are unaware of their status.