While HIV/AIDS is a serious concern in most Amerindian communities, there appears to be a growing issue of sexual and reproductive health in the same communities. This is according to Focal Point for HIV/AIDS at the Amerindian Affairs Ministry, Autry Haynes.
The National HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme is currently being supported by the Ministry of Health and the Health Sector Development Unit with funds from the World Bank.
The programme commenced in 2005 and entails visiting a number of communities, especially the hinterland ones in an effort to sensitise the residents about problems relating to HIV/AIDS and the threat it poses to their livelihood.
According to Haynes, it was during those interventions that the Ministry learnt from the villagers that there are other issues affecting them.
The Amerindian Affairs Ministry then began to address the sexual and reproductive health of Amerindian people such as domestic violence, child abuse and substance abuse.
The Ministry has also been successful in collaborating with other agencies such as the Ministry of Education to include HIV/AIDS and Sexual and Reproductive Health issues in the curriculum of the Health and Family Life Education Programme.
“We have been working with a specialist from the Cyril Potter College of Education in health and family life education programme to fully implement this programme,” Haynes said.
He explained that as a result of the Hinterland Scholarship Programme, youths find it rather hard to settle down in Georgetown after leaving their homes in the hinterland. The transformation he said makes them very vulnerable at that stage.
As such, the Ministry has been able to access the services of a volunteer from Peace Corps to study the Hinterland Scholarship Programme and to come up with interventions to deal with this specific issue as part of the prevention programme.
Meanwhile, the prevention programme has also received the support from UNICEF to establish youth friendly spaces in the various Amerindian hostels and also to have intervention in youth clubs.
“So, apart from addressing HIV/AIDS we are able to expand our programme to address other issues especially sexual reproduction and health issues in all spheres of Amerindian livelihood,” Haynes explained.
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