Last year March, USAID/Guyana entered the final year of its five-year HIV/AIDS strategy under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
The Mission is now preparing the next phase of its HIV/AIDS initiative for the period 2009-2013.
This newspaper understands that an assessment of the HIV/AIDS portfolio was conducted in 2007 to review the results of the programme to date and identify approaches that could be employed in the future.
Early last year, the USAID Health Team used that information to prepare an initial draft of the new HIV/AIDS strategy.
The assessment revealed that Guyana faces a low-level generalized HIV epidemic with current projections indicating a slight upward trend in prevalence and a slight downward trend in incidence.
As prevalence increases, the need for anti-retroviral therapy (ART) also increases due to the longer life expectancy of HIV+ people. Findings also indicated that, by 2007, some 60 percent of people with advanced HIV infection were receiving ART.
In 2007, a whopping 97.7 percent of the pregnant women who were reached (14,000) by the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) programme agreed to be tested, with 64 percent of HIV+ clients receiving ART.
Approximately 11 percent of the population between 15 and 19 years of age have been tested for HIV and know their status.
Approximately 77 percent of HIV+ clients with presumptive TB received TB and HIV treatment.
The USAID’s draft country strategy with Guyana for 2009 – 2013 states that USAID/Guyana’s support will be particularly needed in two critical areas namely prevention, care and treatment programs.
According to the document, despite recent Government and civil society efforts that have noticeably improved AIDS-related morbidity and mortality, the expanding number of people infected with HIV continues to be a major concern. It added that increased access to resources for prevention has not kept pace with resources for treatment.
The 2009-2013 USAID strategy will continue to focus on prevention, including expanded access to PMTCT services; safer sexual behaviour; prevention programmes for vulnerable populations; reduced stigma; and safe medical injections.
According to the document, strengthening the direct referral system is also critical to ensuring that HIV+ persons receive the care, support, and services needed.
“To increase the use of VCT among high-risk populations, efforts will be made to decrease stigma and increase awareness of the personal perception of risk.”
Abstinence and Be Faithful (A&B) efforts will continue to focus on activities that encourage behavior to reduce the risk of infection. These activities will include promotion of the benefits of delayed sexual debut until marriage, secondary abstinence for those who are sexually active, partner reduction, and fidelity.
Men will be targeted specifically to discourage cross-generational sex and encourage fidelity, partner reduction and other behaviour change, emphasizing familial responsibility.
“Linkages to other prevention activities will be made for sexually active youth and, where appropriate, referrals for STI, HIV and AIDS treatment and care. USAID will continue to support NGOs/FBOs for implementation of these activities.”
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