Jul 15, 2011 News
… reveals preliminary facts to stakeholders for consultation
Any worthy Army General will tell you that he/she cannot plan a battle if he/she has no intelligence, and the condition holds for every arena of war.
The National Aids Programme Secretariat (NAPS) embarked on an ambitious programme sometime ago to compile a national database on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Once every two years a team from the Ministry of Health works with several stakeholders in the industry to analyse the data collected over the period, data that is eventually sent to international stakeholders for the compilation of international reports on the epidemic.
The purpose of yesterday’s forum was to bring the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) analysts and their preliminary data in contact with the principal stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Among the stakeholders are organisations such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention (GHARP) and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), who reviewed the assumptions used by the analytical team and preliminary data as compiled and issued by the analysts from NAPS. They then worked towards a consensus for the data suggesting modifications where necessary.
According to Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, the information is then to be submitted to UNAIDS for use in their international reports on HIV/AIDS, and to be used at the country level thereafter, as Guyana seeks to appropriate and justify international funding for dealing with the disease.
Dr. Shanti Singh, Programme Manager at NAPS, pointed out that this year’s exercise was done on a database that has shown tremendous improvement. She said that the team is much more confident that this year’s estimates give a true perspective of the HIV/AIDS situation in Guyana.
Ramsammy noted that the Ministry is busy putting together its third generation strategic plan in the fight against HIV/AIDS, with the eventual goal of seeing the end of HIV/AIDS as a public health scourge.
He noted that the Ministry is steadily working towards the goal of bringing Mother-to-Child transmission of the virus to zero by the year 2020.
But these and the other goals, according to Ramsammy, that are being set by the Ministry and the country at large, are all dependent on the scope of the problem – the extent of which cannot be determined unless information such as how many persons are already affected by the disease, the type and size of risk groups, trends in infection occurrence and other data, is not available.
According to Ramsammy, “underestimating represents a grave risk and puts us all at peril. Overestimating will skew the health response and create neglect in other areas.”
The Ministry has over the years sought to develop better data collection systems around the country. Ramsammy noted that though there may be weaknesses inherent in the system and although critics of the need for the M&E department abound, data is still needed to establish diagnostic and treatment programmes which are themselves based on need – a need that will only be seen by surveillance systems.
He revealed that while two years ago the estimate-based figure for prevalence of HIV/AIDS was some seven percent, this year that figure stands at 1.5 percent, a position that the Minister opined may hold for some time.
Ramsammy warned that a drop in the prevalence rate should not be expected, because such a thing will not happen unless people are dying, which is clearly not the case, since all of the measures employed in the fight are aimed at lengthening the lives of people with HIV/AIDS.
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