PHILIPSBURG – Sint Maarten will celebrate carnival for the fiftieth time this year and that means a bigger party than usual. But also an uptake in the amount of sexually transmitted infections. Sint Maarten still has the highest number of HIV patients in the Kingdom, according to the Sint Maarten Aids Foundation.
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By Tim van Dijk
Doctor Gerard van Osch moved to Sint Maarten nearly 30 years ago and is the founder of the Sint Maarten Aids Foundation. He explained that there are nearly 1100 HIV positive individuals on the island. Those are the known cases, because they’ve been registered.
“Next to that we’re sure that there are an additional 1200 to 1400 HIV positive individuals walking around who are not receiving treatment or that do not know their status. You can be HIV positive and not have any symptoms.”
Van Osch always sees an increase in the amount of sexual disorders such as STI’s and therefor HIV around carnival time. This increase is most noticeable under young individuals who don’t see it as their responsibility to have safe sex.
Free condoms and STI tests
Six volunteers from the foundation will be handing out nearly 4000 condoms this week with the support of the government. Project coordinator Liska Busby will also be testing a lot of individuals this week. The government has provided a big medical bus which is located behind the toilets in Philipsburg’s Carnival Village.
“There are girls and women who will have intercourse three to four times during the evening, sometimes with different men”, she says.
“During carnival you’ll notice that the dance moves are more sexualized, add some alcohol or other stimulants and people lose all inhibitions”, according to doctor Van Osch. “But if you want to go crazy, please do it safely. It will make your life a whole lot easier.”