Mar 14, 2009 News
– project announces successes in HIV/AIDS fight
By Sharmain Cornette
After operating in Guyana for five years, the HIV/AIDS-oriented work of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)-funded Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention (GHARP) project in Guyana will conclude this month-end.
And, in order to reminisce on its achievements and to deliberate on the lessons learnt over the years, a forum which culminated with a luncheon was held by the departing entity at Pegasus Hotel yesterday.
The well-attended forum included members of the business community, Non-Governmental Organisations, the media, officials of the Ministry of Health, among others who have collaborated in varying ways with USAID/GHARP since its entry into the local society.
According to USAID/GHARP Chief of Party, Kwame Asiedu, the project, which had as its main objective to reduce the spread of HIV and mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS, came as part of a US and Guyana Government partnership.
In this regard, GHARP had implemented programmes in the areas of Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission, Voluntary Counselling and Testing, Abstinence Only, Prevention: Abstinence and Faithfulness, Community Mobilisation and Stigma and Discrimination, Commercial Sex Workers/Men who have Sex with Men Interventions, Orphans and Vulnerable Children, among several others. And, according to Asiedu, GHARP was able to meet all of its targets, and in some cases even surpassed them.
He disclosed that initially the project should have ended in September 2008, but was however extended with additional funding from PEPFAR through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
He noted that, in addition to working with the Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Health and its various units and divisions, 23 NGOs and 43 private sector organisations collaborated with the project.
Further, Asiedu disclosed that other government ministries, the Pan American Health Organisation and the UN Agencies all contributed to the programmes that were implemented by GHARP.
The Chief of Party also attributed the evident success of the soon-to-be-concluded project to the commitment of his staffers, even in the face of suppositions that Guyana does not have enough human-resource capacity to implement programmes.
“One of the lessons we learnt when we started this project was that when you focus in recruiting well-qualified people you provide them with training, you build your capacity and you find ways and means of retaining them.”
It was for this reason, Asiedu speculated, that over the course of the project the turn-over rate of the GHARP staff was almost negligible. “Part of it was because of the policies we put in place to ensure that we retain staff for them to be able to implement the programmes.
The little things we put in place helped us to retain them.”
According to Asiedu, staffers were given a sense of ownership and thus were accountable for what they did. In essence, he noted that it was by instilling a sense of pride that the best that staffers had to offer was evoked.
He therefore asserted that the argument that Guyana does not have enough qualified people and people to implement programmes can now be disputed. “There are people… It all depends on how you nourish and work with them.”
With the dedication of the staffers, organisational support, substantial funding, and the fact that Guyana is a low-prevalent-rate country, it was evident that GHARP had the potential to contain the epidemic or lower the prevalency rate, Asiedu said.
“Nobody would have expected that PEPFAR would have put more money here, but we became like a pilot project.
If you put enough resources in a low-prevalence country you would be able to get the same or better results as in a high-prevalent funded country… this we have demonstrated.”
Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy, in commending the work of GHARP, yesterday acknowledged that the entity has undoubtedly been able to make a dent in the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
“We can say that we have contributed to the dent in the HIV armour,” the Minister confidently related to the gathering.
But, while the highlight of the forum yesterday was that of departure, Chief of Party Kwame Asiedu speculated that the work which was engaged by USAID/GHARP in July, 2004 will in fact continue in different ways and places with the same and even better results.
He pointed out that, although much effort and dedication were directed to the programmes that were implemented, they could not have been a successful reality if partnerships were not forged withthe various local entities.
“For the past five years we have been here I don’t think that we would have been able to achieve the results if we had not worked very closely with all of you (organisations).
I strongly believe that you contributed to the success we are celebrating today.”
GHARP has also been able to strive over the years with the assistance of its main partners: Family Health International, Management Sciences for Health, Cicatelli Associates Incorporated, Howard Delafield based in the United States, and the Caribbean Council of Churches.
The departure of GHARP will pave the way for Artistes in Direct Support to become an entity that will continue the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The only savior of Guyana.
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