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Island-wide HIV testing campaign on St. Maarten and St. Martin

THURSDAY, 5 DECEMBER 2013

PHILIPSBURG–Health Minister Cornelius de Weever urged the public to get tested and know their HIV status at the introduction of the Stronger Together island-wide testing campaign for HIV and AIDS at the AC Wathey Legislative Hall on Wednesday.

The campaign was officially launched during a ceremony at the Rock House Restaurant Port de Plaisance on Friday night, Policy Advisor at the Department of Public Health Margje Troost told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.

The campaign targets immigrant groups on the island. It aims to improve access to information about the available HIV services for general populations on the island by providing radio jingles, posters, banners, flyers, magnets, business cards, information cards and bus stickers in three different languages English, Spanish and Creole.

The campaign is a collaborative effort of the HIV/ AIDS Programme Management Team, St. Maarten AIDS Foundation, French AIDS Foundation AIDES, Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS PANCAP, and the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), which helped to fund the campaign.

Troost said St. Maarten was one of five countries selected by PANCAP for the project because of its relatively large immigrant population. She said the goal is to encourage as many people as possible to be tested. “It is important for people to know their status to receive treatment as fast as possible,” she noted, adding that this is not just important for the individual but also for the community as persons who know their status and are receiving treatment are less likely to spread the disease.

De Weever said the joint effort between the French and Dutch St. Maarten should be applauded as HIV does not stop at the border. “As the new cam- paign rolls out, I am asking the entire public to do their part and encourage their partners, colleagues and friends to get tested and know their status and get checked,” the minister said.

AIDS Foundation representative Rae Merlet said the campaign reflects the realities of the island being multi-ethnic and multilingual. She said success has been netted in getting English speaking persons to get tested. She expressed hope that the new campaign will reap similar success. The campaign is geared towards making people aware and making testing more accessible on both sides of the island. The campaign will be taken into the districts.

AIDES Coordinator Angeline Pottier said the foundation is “very proud” to work with the Dutch side AIDS foundation. She said this is the first time that the two foundations are work- ing together, which she said is a very good opportunity to reach all communities.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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