The Ministry of Health has been directing substantial funding to the more than 20 children’s homes countrywide in a bid to help address some of the challenges faced in providing care to their vulnerable residents.
The venture comes as part of the Ministry’s attempt to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, emphasized that the homes are by no means for the HIV-infected only, since they cater to all children. Among them, he said, are those who might have parents who are infected with the virus as well as those who were abandoned and have no place to go.
“What we are doing is that we are helping homes that take care of children – Orphanages and other homes…We have been giving assistance by offering various sums, between $10 and $15 million, to upgrade their facilities.”
In addition to this, Dr. Ramsammy said that his Ministry has been rendering other small forms of assistance, including the procurement of beds, kitchen utensils and televisions, towards the upgrade process. He disclosed that these efforts are all geared at meeting the standards for children’s homes, which were implemented by the Human Services Ministry.
The assistance to the homes, the Minister said, is part of the Ministry’s effort to build programmes to improve the capacity of the Ministry, not only as it relates to HIV, but also to serve the vulnerable in society.
Additionally, he revealed that the Ministry has also started a new round of its Behavioural Surveillance Survey, which is being conducted in various groups countrywide also as part of its HIV/AIDS programme.
“We had completed the out-of-school youths, the in-school youths, prisoners, the military, the security forces and we have also been in certain workplaces,” he noted.
According to the Minister, plans are already apace to repeat those surveys with a view of deriving updated statistics, which will be made available.
Currently, the Minister divulged, there are about 2,500 persons who are receiving Anti-retrovirals (ARVs) right here in Guyana, treatment which is available free of cost.
He noted that it is anticipated that by next year more infected persons will be exposed to the treatment programme.
And Minister Ramsammy is of the belief that as soon as an individual is found to be infected with the disease, regardless of their CD4 count, they should become eligible for treatment, even as he pointed out that the local treatment programme is one of the most advanced globally.
“We no longer make restrictions for people to be tested. People can be tested anytime and anywhere in Guyana. Once they are diagnosed as HIV positive they enter the treatment programme immediately. There is no restriction based on whether their CD4 count is 200 or 350,” the Minister asserted.
He pointed out that Guyana opted to move in the immediate treatment direction more than a year ago, adding that the Ministry’s decision is evidence-based, is sound science, and not just the “whims and fancies of a Minister or his technical officers”.
“I was delighted to read the latest edition of the Lancet…They confess that the model that Guyana has for universal access to diagnosis with immediate treatment of those that are positive is the best way to control and eliminate HIV.”
As such it is the view of the Minister that Guyana’s monitoring system of the disease is in fact one that many countries are trying to emulate.
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