Dozens of journalists from Grenada, the Caribbean and Internationally should be better equipped now to report on issues of viruses their spread, and treatment and vaccinations.
Media personnel were invited to participate in a three-day workshop at St George’s University (SGU) organised by Windward Islands Research & Education Foundation in partnership with Global Virus Network and SGU.
The Virology Workshop for Journalists provided reporters with an opportunity to take what can be a complex subject – the science and epidemiology of viruses – and break it down to a comprehensible level that can be utilised when reporters need to communicate to the masses about important news relating to viruses.
The workshop fell in line with a national cleanup campaign aimed at reducing the mosquito population in Grenada in particular the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the dengue and Chikungunya virus, the most recent to be discovered in the Caribbean region.
In an address to participants, Minister of Health, Dr Clarice Modeste-Curwen, said that these vector control activities would continue until there is a zero incidence of dengue in the country and possibly eliminate the possibility of emerging diseases finding a vector on island.
Dr Modeste-Curwen expressed concern with the wide-range of diseases confronted on a regular basis in Grenada ranging from mild discomfort to loss of life which impacts negatively on the individual as well as on the country’s economy.
In the area of HIV and AIDS, the Health Minister thanked renowned virologist Dr Robert Gallo for his co-discovery of HIV and his work done on the development of the blood test for life-saving.
Dr. Gallo also discovered the first known human retroviruses (HTLV-1 and HTLV-2), which are endemic to regions in the Caribbean including Grenada.
HTLV is a sexually transmitted disease like HIV. The Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is a human retrovirus that is known to cause a type of cancer, referred to as adult T-cell leukemia and lymphoma, and a demyelinating disease called HTLV-1 associated myelopathy/Tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). There is no cure for HTLV.
A medical doctor by profession, Dr Modeste-Curwen, said that while Grenada has come a long way in dealing with the detection and treatment of HIV/AIDS, there is still a long way to go particularly in educating the public about the disease.
She noted that despite years of information to the public, many persons are still ignorant to the facts of the disease and become complacent based on the looks of an individual.
The senior government minister also expressed concern about the prevalence of HPV and HTLV in young Grenadian women.
She said the Ministry of Health is now giving serious consideration to more cancer screening and vaccine for prevention of this emerging virus.
Regarding HTLV, she stated that it seems that more Grenadians are becoming susceptible to the disease and in fact records show that in Grenada more people die from HTLV than HIV/AIDS.
Minister Modeste-Curwen expressed concern about the level of attention given to HIV/AIDS when more people in Grenada are dying from HTLV.
“I must acknowledge that HTLV has not received the same awareness drive and support like HIV but it’s something that we will have to work on,” she said.
A study conducted on pregnant women by Windward Island Research and Education Foundation – the research division of St George’s University – revealed that 4003 samples were tested for HTLV and of this 157 (3.9%) tested positive.
“Applying the results of blood screening records to the entire population of Grenada it should be expected that approximately 3,728 Grenadians may be currently infected with HTLV, ” the study revealed.
Dr Gallo believes that Government through the Ministry of Health should embark on an educational awareness programme on HTLV and to encourage people to know their HTLV status.