Even in the throws of COVID-19, members of the Imani Bet Knesset Foundation in Tobago celebrated World AIDS Day on Tuesday by reminding the nation that the struggle continues against the OTHER pandemic – HIV/AIDS.
The foundation held an exhibition at the Scarborough Library compound where founder and co-chairman of the foundation Dr Faith B Yisrael, while the death rate has decreased in Tobago, the infection rates are not where they should be.
“So we have the blessing of free healthcare so you don’t hear about people dying. However, when you look at the infection rates they are not going down as they should, people are getting infected they are just not dying because we have the medication to treat with HIV.”
She also commended the island’s mother to infant transmission prevention programme, which she said has been doing very good thus far.
But Dr B Yisrael lamented that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of transmission.
“In this 2020 year of COVID-19 we have more people who are frustrated, we have more people who have economic issues, we have more people who may be more at risk for contracting HIV.”
The foundation’s co-chairman also pointed to an increase in child abuse cases, due to the closure of schools because the protective environment is no longer there.
“Children are now being educated at home and the home may not be the best place for the child so we are seeing higher rates of general child abuse and when you talk to my friends in the TTPS you are actually seeing higher rates of general abuse and even for women you’re seeing rates of higher domestic violence.”
According to Dr B Yisrael, her foundation will continue to work to create a culture shift where people feel free to discuss matters related to sex and feel comfortable to ask for help and get educated.
“We have to make sure when we speak about things like condoms and sex we are not speaking about it with shame and stigma because this is part of life, I think this has been a part of the issue where we have been talking about these kind of activities under a cloud.”
The Imani Bet Knesset Foundation has been observing World Aids Day since it was formed in 2015, and although this year’s celebration was low key, Dr Yisrael said it was significant because for the first time the National Memorial Quilt came to Tobago.
“The Memorial Quilt is basically a grouping of panels that we have sewn together into a quilt, it’s a physical reminder of someone who died from HIV/AIDS. If you look you will see even baby items attached. so this is one way to celebrate the lives of those we lost to HIV/AIDS.”
She said the foundation is in the process of creating a Tobago version of the quilt to honour those who died on the island.