Candlelight vigil to remember those with HIV

A candlelight vigil was held last Friday evening at EFKSA Church, Faatoialemanu to remember those who died from HIV and others who are currently living with the virus.

Minister for Health, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, spoke of the lack of treatment for the virus 30 years and how things have changed over the years. 

“Thirty years ago, these developments were almost unimaginable. AIDS was referred to as an untreatable disease, a death sentence. But today, people living with HIV can live much longer, healthier lives,” he said.

According to Tuitama, the life expectancy of HIV-positive person in developed nations is now close to a person living without the virus, which he said should be what Samoa should aim to achieve.  

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The Minister said today the country has full access to care and treatment through the National Health Services (N.H.S), supported by United Nations, the NGO health sector and health development partners.

Medication for HIV-positive patients are free in Samoa, Tuitama added, as well as continuum of care and rapid tests. There is also medication for pre-exposure prophylaxis for people with any accidental or unforeseen risk of HIV. 

The Minister said currently there are 13 people living with HIV in Samoa and are all on treatment while 13 having passed on. 

The country has recorded a total of 26 people with HIV since 1990. Although there is no vaccine or cure as yet, Tuitama said treatment is encouraged. 

He also called for an end to stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. 

“We must continue fighting stigma and discrimination against people living with Hive. We must continue to encourage people to be tested for HIV so that they can access care and treatment,” he added.

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