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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 2, 2022


A two-day conference aimed at sizing up the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region concludes Friday but the presentations Thursday revealed new information about who is affected by the disease and how rapidly it has spread.
Dr. Cora Christian of the V.I. Medical Institute was one of several presenters in the opening of the conference. She noted a dramatic increase in instances of the disease over the last 20 years.
"Full blown AIDS cases have risen from eight cases in 1983 to over 400 cases in 1999," she said.
Of the new cases 72 percent of the increase was in males and 28 percent in females.
The Virgin Islands case rate is almost twice the national average, presenters said, quoting from figures released by the National Institutes of Health.
Figures through June 1999, released from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, show the V.I. ranks fifth in the nation in incidence of AIDS cases per capita.
Christian called on Virgin Islanders to face the facts about the disease and its victims, and at the same time promote safe sex.
"We need to develop a view of the disease that helps solve the problem rather than treating its victims like lepers," she said.
Though St. Thomas has 49 percent of the population, it has 62 percent of
active AIDS cases, she said, but St. Croix has 70 percent of the teen-agers showing up with HIV/ AIDS.
Participants, who included health care workers, government leaders, educators and religious leaders, heard that denial about AIDS is still commonplace with those who are most affected by it.
The "Heightening Awareness of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean Region" conference is being held at the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort.
Other speakers included: Health Commissioner Wilbur Callender, Delegate to Congress Donna Christian-Christiansen and Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus.
A motivational speaker, funny man Paul Keens Douglas, ended the day's events Thursday.
The morning lectures were beamed via satellite from St. Thomas to other Caribbean islands, including Barbados, the Bahamas and Trinidad where similar conferences are being held. More than 2,000 persons registered at the conference in all locations. On St. Thomas, about 650 persons were registered by midday Thursday.
Rounding out the day's speakers on Friday will be noted St. Croix physician, Dr. Olaf "Bronco" Hendricks.

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