There appears to be a change in the perception of HIV in the BVI--- National Aids Program Coordinator, Noelene Levons-Clarke announced during the May 21, edition of the JTV Spotlight Program.
The National Aids Program Coordinator said that there appears to be an open-minded view of HIV in the territory; which has changed the way people view the illness and affected persons.
“I think in the BVI right now people are like—‘HIV! We have heard enough’. In fact, many people in the BVI I can say don’t know anyone with HIV. They have never experienced HIV besides media and so it is not as personal,” she explained.
“It (HIV) only becomes personal when it is someone you know, especially someone who is close to you. I have friends who say well I have had a brother who had HIV or I have had an uncle, that kind of thing; they will understand; but for the majority of persons it is far-fetched. So we have gotten to a point where people say, hey you can live long, Magic Johnson has been living for over 25 years, so what’s the big deal,” Mrs. Clarke stated.
Nonetheless, Clarke opined that it was a good thing that people are no longer looking at HIV as a death sentence, but rather as another chronic illness. She said the only difference between HIV and other chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes is the fact that HIV can be transmitted from one person to another. Clarke said that HIV persons do not fit the stereotype of looking scary, skinny and sickly. Additionally, she stated that HIV persons are not dying as before because the disease is much easier to deal with.
On the other hand she announced that a lot of persons are more conscious of the virus and more men are getting tested. Clarke said she was happy that more men were taking that stance, because in the past women were the ones being tested more.
“A lot of men are coming in for testing, and some would say things like—‘I slept with someone new, the condom broke I need to know.’ That shows responsibility, they are taking ownership for their sexuality. Yes, it is scary but at the end of the day they are stepping up to the plate and saying I need to know, because I need to protect my wife and partner,” the National Aids Program Coordinator said.
Clarke disclosed that there are over 30 persons receiving HIV care and treatment in the territory; and are enjoying normal lives. She also stated that there is a more positive view of the illness in the territory.