Min. Ramsammy gets emotional at World AIDS Day launch
By Fareeza Haniff.
Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy was moves to tears when he recalled watching his Ministry being burnt to the ground one week ago. That destruction has left himself and numerous employees out of an office.
During the launch of World AIDS Day 2009 at the International Convention Centre, yesterday, Minister Ramsammy said that even though he and his staff were confronted with a tragedy, they have met all their obligations.
All events have taken place on time, including the launching of the World AIDS Day campaign.
World AIDS Day, this year, is being observed under the theme, “Universal Access and Human Rights.” At the same time, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) is promoting the use of condoms through the launching of the “Put it on” HIV prevention campaign.
In this regard, Dr. Ramsammy said the campaign is aimed at making peoples’ lives better.
He also noted that each and every single Guyanese have contributed to the problem by stigmatising people infected and affected with HIV/AIDS.
According to the Health Minister, the campaign is not targeting any specific group; it is sending a message to everyone.
While recognising that some people are difficult to reach, Minister Ramsammy urged that programmes must be designed in such a way that it reaches every citizen in the country, including those in the churches.
“We must continue to strengthen our programmes to treat those who are living with HIV; we must continue to support those who live with HIV so they could live long productive lives, and continue to participate in their everyday activities, but we must also recognize that in a country like Guyana, more than 98 per cent are not infected yet.”
The Health Minister said that while treatment is important, prevention must also be a priority for universal access.
While a majority of the population has access to prevention and knowledge about HIV, there are many who are not properly educated about the virus.
“Too many of our people still remain unaware about basic facts on HIV.
We have significantly increased knowledge in our country and I remind my colleagues at the Ministry of Health that our job has not yet been successfully done, because there are Guyanese who still unaware of the basic facts,” Dr. Ramsammy said.
Meanwhile, Programme Manager of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), Dr. Shanti Singh said that Guyana is now proudly reporting an increase in survival rates among HIV/AIDS patients with an enhanced quality of life.
The country has seen a three per cent decrease in the prevention of Mother to Child Transmission and a reduction in the rates among some of the most at risk population.
She said that at the end of December 2007, children under 15 years of age accounted for 290,000 deaths worldwide. Some 420,000 were newly infected with the virus.
In Guyana, almost three percent of their notified cases for HIV AIDS cases in 2008 have been between the ages of 15 and 19 and the vast majority of almost 82 percent have been between the ages of 20 and 49.
Country Coordinator of UNAIDS, Dr. Ruben Del Prado, noted that Guyana is making good progress in the area of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support most notable is the prevention to mother to child program.
He added that it is the time to speak the truth about unacceptable laws and practices that violate the rights of people living with or affected by HIV.
According to Dr. Del Prado, in Guyana, except for the outdated colonial laws that criminalise same sex sexuality and commercial sex, everything else is in place to achieve universal access to HIV.