While cases of HIV have declined marginally over the past decade, health authorities are struggling to combat outbreaks of other Sexually Transmitted Infections and diseases (STIs/STDs) including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
Senior Medical Officer, Dr Anton Best said health officials recorded a sharp increase in sexually transmitted diseases, revealing that the ministry had since been unsuccessful in bringing the troubling outbreak under control.
Dr Best was delivering the feature address at the National HIV/AIDS Commission’s report on the findings of the Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs and Sexual Practices Survey.
“Data is showing us that we have sustained high rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea and then there has been an outbreak of syphilis and since then the annual rates of syphilis have remained high.
“These observations are further indications that behavioural campaigns have not been as effective as we would have liked,” Dr Best revealed.
He said while public awareness campaigns, studies and other forms of research focus mainly on the transmission of HIV, other STIs could not be ignored.
“Please appreciate that our goals and objectives of our national HIV program also speak to the need to prevent and control the spread of other sexually transmitted infections in Barbados.
“So while this survey is an integral part of the research agenda for HIV, we must utilize these findings in conjunction with others in teaching information to design and implement evidence-informed interventions and policies to better control and prevent HIV and STIs in Barbados,” he said.
Frowning on the seemingly nonchalant attitudes displayed by some Barbadians to the transmission of STIs, Best argued that a tremendous amount of work was needed to combat the infections and diseases. He was responding to new information which indicates that a lack of condom use, reduced STI testing and numerous sex partners have stifled the efforts of authorities.
“Our behaviors and sexual practices are the result of our cultural norms and social structures. Social research is therefore key for us to have the best possible understanding of the local context of HIV vulnerabilities.
“Best available evidence is indicating that this is due to the use of antiretroviral therapy rather than the alteration of sexual habits of people in Barbados. So we are faced with a conundrum and need to find more effective ways to modify people’s attitudes and their behaviours,” said the senior medical officer.
He further expressed hope that some of the strides made in the reduction of HIV would be transferred to other sexually transmitted diseases.