Thursday, 29 December 2011

Times: AIDS awareness? What AIDS awareness?
Sunday, December 4, 2011 , by Ariadne Massa

The posters for bus shelters.

GU Clinic head Philip Carabot is “extremely disappointed” World AIDS Day has come and gone with barely a whisper on awareness in Malta, after the whole fanfare to launch the national sexual health strategy.

World AIDS Day, celebrated on December 1, came three weeks after the strategy’s official launch, so Dr Carabot was ex­pecting something more hard-hitting.

In past years, he said, campaigns associated with this important date were careful not to tread on anyone’s toes or offend morals, so after the strategy’s launch he was confident the tone of the message would change.

“After all the publicity and launch of the strategy, we had a golden opportunity so soon after to put these wonderful aspirations into practice and we lost it. I’m extremely disappointed,” he said.

“We must be one of the only countries in the EU not to hear anything mentioned on World AIDS Day.”

However, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Department director Charmaine Gauci defended the low-key approach, saying awareness campaigns were taking place all year, not just on World AIDS Day.

Apart from this, on the actual day, the department teamed up with the Malta Medical Students Association to raise awareness about HIV on the University campus and there was a whole week of outreach projects.

Dr Gauci added that in the coming week there would also be a sexual health media campaign and posters put up on bus shelters promoting ABCD – abstinence, be faithful, use condoms, and don’t do drugs.

“We are working with the community and encouraging people to change their behaviour – we can’t do everything at once,” she said.

Between 2000 and 2010, there were 47 cases of HIV registered at the GU Clinic, and while the numbers remain small the cases are increasing and it is hard to say what the true prevalence of this illness is.

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