…major dent made in stigma and discrimination
By Fareeza Haniff.
Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, has revealed that Guyana’s HIV prevalence rate currently stands at 1.8 per cent. This, he said, is a significant achievement for Guyana, when compared to previous years, when the prevalence rate was said to be between three per cent and five per cent. Some persons had also projected it to reach seven per cent.
Addressing the launch of the Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention Project (GHARP) Phase 11, Minister Ramsammy noted that in the early stages of the virus, the life expectancy of those persons living with HIV was reduced to only a matter of days, weeks and months.
He revealed that more than 80 per cent of persons when diagnosed at stage three of the virus lived for a period of only three months.
However, now after HIV/AIDS, persons are placed on treatment, more than 80 per cent of them are still alive one year later.
It was noted that when treatment of the virus commenced in April 2002, more than 70 per cent of persons were put on it. Until today most of these persons are still living productive lives. This, Minister Ramsammy said, is an indication that the programme is working.
“When we started way back then, between three and seven per cent of pregnant women came to the antenatal clinic as HIV positive. At the end of 2008, there was 1.1 per cent and among those women, between 30 to 40 of every one hundred of them who were HIV positive, would give birth to HIV positive babies. Today we have brought that down to between two and four per cent.”
The Health Minister also noted that Guyana is making a huge dent on stigma and discrimination.
Minister Ramsammy said that the time has gone when a business entity would fire someone for being infected with the virus, as most business establishments are now becoming members of the HIV/AIDS Business Coalition.
“You can never be totally certain but we now have evidence to base our data on. In 2002, it was mere projections based on some small studies. Today, we have a comprehensive analysis of what is happening in every village of our country.”
He explained that his Ministry is continuing a robust PEPFAR programme in Guyana in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
According to Dr. Ramsammy, Commercial Sex Workers (CSW) and Men who have sex with Men (MSN) deserve the same services like other people, as they are no less a human being.
He stressed the importance of forming partnerships, as he noted that if the PEPFAR programme is to come to an end, then Guyana would be in ‘some serious trouble.’
Phase Two of the programme was established in April 2009 and will be completed in December 2012.
Minister Ramsammy said that there were problems with the first phase of the programme, but that he would not allow the same thing to occur in this phase.
“In the second phase, I will let the management know that the Ministry will not work with certain persons and expect immediate action to be taken. We cannot develop parallel programmes. It is immoral and it is wrong.
“We cannot develop programmes that cannot continue tomorrow. We have to develop sustainable programmes because PEPFAR will only be around for some time.”
Meanwhile, Chief of Party of GHARP 11, Silvia Gurrola Bonilla, said that in keeping with their strategies for the plans for HIV /AIDS, their activities are planned to meet the needs of those individuals who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
She said that GHARP Two will review the approaches to commercial marketing, advertising, behavioural changes strategies addressing gender issues.
Also, linkages will be established with the private sector, to create demand for products and services among targeted populations, including youth, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people living with HIV AIDS.
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