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Tears, applause and encouragement for visiting HIV-positive speaker

The public testimony of HIV-positive speaker Lolisa Gibson-Hunte was met with tears and applause — plus encouragement from Bermudians who live with the virus.

“You can go for many years without knowing you have it,” Ms Gibson-Hunte advised a teen in the audience. “It’s something you need to be aware of — get tested, get educated, and protect yourself.”

Bermuda has about 300 people who are known to carry HIV, but probably a further 100 aren’t aware they carry it, the public forum heard.

Over-the-counter HIV testing kits, sold in the US, are being stocked by local pharmacies and should quickly become available in Bermuda, infectious disease specialist Michael Ashton said.

Thursday is HIV Testing Day, Public Health Nurse Kim Ball advised, and the Department of Health recommends anyone at any possible risk of infection to get tested once a year.

An HIV-positive woman rose from the audience to thank the US speaker, also telling a teenager reluctantly brought along to the forum: “Pay attention to your mother.”

She added: “I’m proud to stand here today and say it could happen to anybody.”

Ms Gibson-Hunte was brought to Bermuda by the Department of Health as part of HIV Awareness Month, and spoke last night at the Bermuda Society of Arts.

Frank talk from Lolisa Gibson-Hunte at the Department of Health public forum on HIV/AIDS at the Bermuda Society of Arts. The speaker is flanked by Carolyn Armstrong of STAR, internist Dr Wilbert Warner, OB/GYN Dr Wendy Woods, and infectious disease physician Dr Michael Ashton.

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Published June 25, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 25, 2013 at 12:01 am)

Tears, applause and encouragement for visiting HIV-positive speaker

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