Mar 14, 2009 News
– Dr Ramsammy
There has been a dramatic reduction in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, particularly as it relates to the number of women who were infected with the disease during their reproductive years.
This disclosure was made by Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy yesterday when he addressed a gathering at a farewell luncheon at the Pegasus Hotel for the Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention (GHARP) project. This project will close its doors this month-end.
GHARP became an active part in the HIV/AIDS fight in 2004 when the percentage of women infected with the disease was quite alarming.
According to the Minister, as far back as 2000 studies revealed varying percentages of infection rate among pregnant women ranging from 4.9 per cent to seven per cent. That percentage, according to the Minister, has since reduced to 1.1 per cent.
The Minister disclosed that in 2002, for every 100 women that tested positive for HIV, 38 of them gave birth to babies that were born with HIV, a development he described as the “greatest tragedy that human-kind has ever known”.
He divulged that, with about 800 pregnant HIV-positive women in the year 2002, more than 300 infected babies were born.
However, with the varying programmes, including the GHARP’s Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission programme, the Minister said that in the past year, of less than 90 women who were HIV-positive during their pregnancy, less than three children were born with the virus.
“Of every 100 women who gave birth while they were HIV-positive, we in Guyana – the health workers, our faith-based leaders, our volunteers and NGOs, we together as a family, as a village – have saved 32 to 35 children that were born to HIV-positive mothers from having HIV.”
There has also been significant reduction in the prevalence of the disease among miners, the Minister divulged. He related that between seven and 11 per cent of them tested positive for HIV before 2002.
However in 2006 a new survey revealed that only 3.9 per cent were infected.
Similar trends have also been detected among Commercial Sex Workers, the Minister revealed, pointing out that several studies between 1997 and 2002 showed that almost half of these workers were living with HIV.
“Between 45 and 48 commercial sex workers tested positive for HIV… It wasn’t even Russian roulette when men went with these workers… They were taking a chance they were giving their life away,” the Minister opined.
However, by 2006 a new prevalence study was able to ascertain that just under 26 per cent of them were infected. “Still far, far too high, but an incredible reduction,” the Minister noted.
It was in the same year, Minister Ramsammy disclosed, that many persons opted to down their head in the sand, because there was no consideration of the prevalence of the disease among men who have sex with men.
“Too many of us were living with the notion that it is not a Guyana problem. It doesn’t exist in Guyana, so how can we have a ‘prevalence’? I think most of us in Guyana have not come to a place where we can accept this, but I think that all of us now acknowledge that that practice as a lifestyle option does exist.”
According to the Minister, regardless of personal preference, the fact of the matter is that men have sex with men, and people have same-sex relationships in Guyana and other countries of the world.
“I speak as the Minister of Health of Guyana… My job is not to determine where on the moral scale that choice fits, because we in health must deliver health care, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, and empower people for good health, regardless of who they are and what choice they make. We provide health services to people of all ilk equally… The day we start to make those choices as to who will get health care is the day that we will guarantee that we will fail the population.”
The Minister noted that he could appreciate the efforts of GHARP and other collaborators in the fight against HIV to detect that some 21 per cent of this faction of society have tested positive for HIV. “Very high, but now we know… But what was it in 2000? What was it in 1999?” the Minister questioned.
According to the Minister, without knowledge problems cannot be solved. He commended the efforts that have been engaged by the GHARP project among others for going the extra mile to determine the extent of the problem.
He said that by the next survey the Health Ministry will be able to deduce whether those efforts have been able to effectively impact the problem.
The only savior of Guyana.
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