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Saturday 15 August, 2020

MP slams Tobago 'HIV list', urges end to stigma

Tobago East MP Ayanna Webster-Roy has added her voice to the chorus of those condemning the spread of a list purporting to be a number of men infected with the HIV virus in Tobago. 

The list was circulated on social media on Thursday, attached to images of a woman who was alleged to have infected the 46 men named in the handwritten note. The post claimed the woman died as a result of AIDS.

The post went viral prompting several of the men named to take to social media to deny the claims. Some posted results of HIV tests to prove they were not infected. 

In one such post, Stephen Lovell updated his Facebook status where he denied knowing the individual accused of spreading the virus.

He described the situation as "sad".

"It's sad what idle hands find time to do," he stated.

"What kind of sick individual would make up this list and story to embarrass and tarnish someone's name and character. And as Trinbagonians are accustom doing, they take the newest gossip and bacchanal on the scene and run with it...without getting facts or weighing it in the balance."

Meanwhile, Tobago assemblyman Ancil Dennis was also on the list of names and described the situation as "unfortunate".

Dennis told a daily newspaper that the list was an attempt to tarnish his name and character.

In a Facebook post, Webster-Roy chimed in, saying HIV and AIDS awareness must be centred on public education and not comess and bacchanal.

"Character assassination does not contribute to the fight to end AIDS by 2030. When we choose to violate a person’s privacy and spread gossip on social media, we are not adding to the efforts to end the stigma around HIV and AIDS. Instead, we are contributing to the proliferation of the epidemic. So stop the pettiness and gossiping, because wah nuh meet yuh nuh pass yuh!" she said.

Webster-Roy further urged the public to help put an end to HIV/AIDS stigma.

"If we are to end AIDS by 2030, we must put an end to the stigma around HIV and AIDS. We must know our status and encourage others to get tested so that they are aware of their status," she stated.

"A positive HIV test result is NOT a death sentence. Persons infected with the virus can live long healthy lives once they stay on their medication and maintain a low viral load. A person living with HIV can still be a valuable contributor to our nation’s development. Most importantly a person living with HIV / AIDS still has a right to live a life free from discrimination!"


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