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Regional HIV Testing Day Launched

Students display placards at the launch of the Regional HIV Testing Day

KINGSTON, 14 June 2011 - UNICEF joined government officials, local entertainers and children on May 27 to support the launch of the 2011 Regional HIV Testing Day, organized annually by the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership (CBMP) on HIV/AIDS, in partnership with Scotiabank.

The Regional HIV Testing Day has been held every year since 2008 throughout the Caribbean to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and to urge more people to get tested for HIV. In total, 16,500 persons have been tested since its inception. This year, Testing Day will be observed on June 24th, 2011.

The CBMP, in collaboration with media houses across the region, uses the opportunity to spread the message about the importance of knowing one's status. Despite efforts to prevent the spread of HIV, the disease continues to take a heavy toll across the Caribbean. At the end of 2009, there were approximately 240,000 persons living with HIV in the region. In Jamaica, an estimated 32,000 persons are living with the virus. It is believed that at least half of them do not know their status.

Seventy-nine per cent of all AIDS cases in Jamaica fall within the reproductive age range of 20-49, making the prevention of mother-to-child transmission a major national priority. In 2009, at least ten in one thousand mothers attending antenatal clinics were HIV positive. Through testing, the number of babies born HIV positive has fallen from 25% in 2002 to below 5% in 2009.

To demonstrate UNICEF's support for Regional HIV Testing Day, UNICEF Jamaica Representative Robert Fuderich attended the launch and was tested for HIV, along with Jamaica's Minister of Health, the Honourable Rudyard Spencer, the Leader of the Opposition, Mrs. Portia Simpson-Miller, and the CEO and President of Scotiabank, Mr. Bruce Bowen.

Speaking about the importance of this particular Testing Day and "knowing your status", Mr. Fuderich said, "By being tested you take responsibility not only for your own health, but also the healh of your family and loved ones, as well as the nation." He went on to say that the large number of HIV positive persons who may not know their status can have a disastrous effect on the future health and well-being of all Jamaica. "UNICEF is deeply concerned about this trend and we hope to intensify our efforts to make every Jamaican aware of their status."

The CBMP is an arm of the Global Media AIDS Initiative (GMAI), which is supported by the United Nations. The CBMP employs the power and reach of the media to actively address HIV/AIDS prevention across the Caribbean.



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