A 2012 study has shown HIV and AIDS remains the leading cause of death among Caribbean people aged 15 to 44 years.
In addition, an estimated 230,000 persons are living with HIV, while in 2010 there were 18,000 newly infected persons.
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Stephen Lashley, disclosed these statistics yesterday while lending his support to a song contest with the theme Live Up, I like Muhself, encouraging young people to exercise care in their sexual practices.
While noting a general decline in HIV incidence across the region, Lashley cautioned that “as a people we need to be more effective in preventing new HIV infections” if this trend is to continue.
“On the one hand,” he said, “this may have appeared to be good news. However, concerns have been expressed about the sexual behaviour of our young people which places them at risk.”
The minister of youth noted that a 2010 study showed that 39.4 per cent of females engaged in oral sex and of these 30.6 per cent engaged in sexual intercourse before the age of 16.
Lashley said agencies such as the Red Cross have targeted young people as a means of halting the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The Christ Church West Central MP explained that the same had been done in Barbados with policy makers utilising the services of the National HIV/AIDS Commission, and the private sector AIDS Foundation.
Conscious of the fact that persons between 15 and 29 were at the prime child bearing age and hence potentially the most sexually active group and most vulnerable to the virus, Lashley added, Government recognised the importance of empowering the youth and equipping them.
Lashley noted that while evidence had revealed an increase in knowledge among the youth in Barbados, the rate of infection remained a concern among health care providers and officials.
He claimed that the real tragedy of the HIV/AIDS pandemic was that sexually active people engage in sexual intercourse without knowing the status of their partner.
“So in the act of creating life, they run the risk of causing death. Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to promote high standards of behaviour while embracing a shared vision of zero new HIV infection and zero AIDS related deaths,” Lashley said.
Recognising the influence music has on the youth, he commended the organisers of the song contest for their initiative to sensitise the region’s youth to the disease. (NC)