The official launch of the Grenada AIDS Care Foundation (GRACF) came with a $50,000 grant from the Together We Care Campaign from Scotia Bank.
The funds were raised over a 12-month period and will be used to manage HIV/AIDS risk within the country and to minimise the impact it has on families.
A ceremony to hand over the cheque took place Monday at the Grand Anse Branch of Scotia Bank, which also witnessed the launch of GRACF.
Speaking at the ceremony, Scotia Bank Country Manager, Roger Archer said the money raised is needed to carry on a continuous awareness programme of the disease as those issues which existed three decades ago are still plaguing the society.
According to Archer since the first HIV diagnosis 31 years ago, there has been significant misinformation globally as it relates to HIV and AIDS.
“There was false information on the transmission of the disease or who can contract the disease and who was at risk of contracting the disease. Additionally there was high level of discrimination and stigma attached to the disease. The disease was viewed as a death sentence … these and other issues affected our economy. Three decades later many of the same issues remain. The good news is, these issues are not as chronic as they were 30 years ago,” he said.
Through efforts like Caribbean broadcast and media professionals, regional testing day which receive support from Scotia Bank, information has been ongoing on how to manage one’s sexual health.
“We now know that the disease cannot be contracted by touching or hugging…we now know HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence. We now know it is important, if not critical to know one’s status, to facilitate the early management of the disease”, said Archer.
“…Our goal is to raise funds for the Grenada AIDS Care Foundation which will be used to ensure that persons know their status. The funds will also be used to provide readily accessible and affordable care … allow positive persons to enjoy life and be productive citizens, continue to create awareness of the healthier lifestyle,” he added.
Archer stated that this continued awareness is needed in order to reach what he referred to as the 90/90/90 goal.
He explained that through this approach, 90% of the population should know their status, 90% of the population living with HIV should have access to anti-retroviral treatment and 90% of persons living with HIV should have a suppressed viral load.
GRACF President, Janice Pierre-Francis told the ceremony that since 1984, there have been 571 diagnosed cases of HIV in Grenada.
“Over the past 31 years, 257 persons have died from AIDS related illness, leaving an estimated 314 living with the virus. Some of these have already progressed to AIDS and some continue to live among us who are not in receipt of any treatment”, she said.
“Despite great coverage over the past three decades, we need more people to become actively involved in the cast of further reducing and ultimately eradicating HIV/AIDS and related stigma and discrimination in our communities,” she added.
Some of the activities planned for the 2015/2016 period are a food drive that will assist affected families during the Christmas season, the Scotia Bank red ribbon campaign, as well as a joint TV and radio telethon and a testing day scheduled for June 2016.
The radio and television telethon will be held on December 1, which is globally recognised as World AIDS Day.