By Sharmain Cornette
As part of efforts by the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown (M&CC) to give more focus to the issue of HIV/AIDS, a number of programmes have been engaged to reach the various departments of the municipality.
The whole venture, according to HIV/AIDS Focal Person within the municipality, Dale Beresford, comes as part of a one-year project, which was kicked into motion in August of last year that is being funded by the Health Sector Development Unit of the Ministry of Health, which is headed by Keith Burrowes.
The project is valued at some $15M and is intended to help mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS among workers of the Georgetown municipality. As part of its implementation is a work programme which requires the involvement of staffers from all sections of the municipality with a view of building their capacity.
“We are training persons to continue to disseminate information, develop policies, programmes and manuals and also integrate HIV/AIDS into the existing work programme of the municipality.”
Against this background, he said that a series of programmes have been streamlined for this week, which will commence with additional informative and interactive activities today at the municipality’s Industrial Site Day Care Centre.
Prior to preparing plans for this week’s activities, Beresford said, staffers including cooks, janitorial staff and child care providers at the various municipal day care centres were trained to better address the HIV/AIDS situation in their respective capacity.
“It was like 60 persons in all that we trained to actually look at HIV/AIDS among orphans and vulnerable children. For them also we dealt with prevention and some of their lifestyles, healthy working relationships and stigma and discrimination.”
And since the majority of the staffers were females, Beresford said that negotiating condom use was a high point of the sessions. This entailed advising the women of ways they could help prevent themselves from becoming infected with HIV.
“We are aiming to build and empower women to be more proactive when it comes to condom use,” Beresford added.
The next target group he revealed is the Building Inspectors who will be tasked with integrating HIV awareness into their work programme, which is primarily in the fields. Revenue collectors who are also assigned to field assignments will also be targeted within the next two weeks in like fashion to share their knowledge and skills with the vendors who are the municipality’s main stakeholders.
Future activities will include an HIV/AIDS market at all of the municipal markets, a venture which according to Beresford will take on the form of a mini health exhibition.
“We will have HIV/AIDS booths sharing information about condoms and we will also have services such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS testing among others.”
It was just recently the municipality had targeted its customer care representatives as part of the project.
This, Beresford said, was especially crucial as this level of staff is in fact the frontline workers that persons would normally meet when they venture to the municipality to conduct various businesses.
The target under the project he said is to educate at least 25 percent of the municipal working population, an objective that has already been attained. This is evident Beresford noted, through the feedback that has been forthcoming from staffers who have been involved in the various sessions.
“We had a session with persons from Day Care and Constabulary together and we had females and males and we found that the genders think differently…So intense it has been that persons are now asking for videos as a result. During our sessions now we are distributing videos to persons about Sexually Transmitted Diseases.”
According to Beresford, employees have such a better understanding of the virus that plans are apace by the City Constabulary Department to launch a ‘Body’s Club’. This club he said will see the employees going out to visit with persons who are infected with HIV as well as those who have other situations that require care and compassion.
M&CC Public Relations Officer, Royston King, said that the efforts of the project would go a far way, as it provides the kind of support needed to help workers preserve their health.
“We are likely to get more out of our workers and if we can get more out of them then the city stands to benefit more. It has a rippling effect and Mr Beresford is doing an extremely good job.”
Meanwhile, as part of its efforts to promote the whole notion of healthy behaviour, the municipality has been offered the use of a modern computerised Body Mass Index machine, which can be accessed by staffers and members of the public at a minimal cost of $100. Beresford stated that the Ministry of Local Government is responsible for the availability of the machine, which he believes, will further help to promote healthy attitudes.
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