Trends in HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) have suggested that there has been an increase of the disease among the adolescent population.
This is according to Senior Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence.
She, however, did not confirm recent reports of a spike in HIV, but assured that her Ministry will shortly be releasing a report on the state of the disease in Guyana.
“Very soon, we will be putting out the CMO (Chief Medical Officer)’s report, which has not been published for several years,” said the Minister.
In fact, Minister Lawrence was slated to host a meeting with her HIV/AIDS staffers yesterday to discuss the matter ahead of the release of the report. There have been reports that there has been an increase in the number of HIV cases but, according to Minister Lawrence, during a recent interview, “I can say to you that those numbers have not been confirmed.”
According to the Minister, “I have been made to understand that there have been some changes in the way in which reporting is done now…numbers are no longer collated, but there is a split in terms of how they are reported, so we are waiting to get that.”
Even as she spoke of the impending release of the report, Minister Lawrence emphasised the role of her Ministry, and agencies, which fall under its purview, to keep, as far as possible, the nation safe, even from diseases including the likes of HIV/AIDS. Nevertheless, although the Ministry has been doing its part, Minister Lawrence asserted that, “if there is a rise [in HIV], I must say to you that it is not something new. We have been looking at the trend since last year; we reported that we had seen an increase in the younger age group and we did put some other measures in place.”
However, the Minister noted that while the Ministry has plans to improve its response to the disease, the local health sector may not be in a position to execute programmes as in the past. She did point out that earlier this year, the Ministry rolled out an HIV/AIDS public awareness programme for 2018, of which a second phase is set to start very soon. She shared, though, that although there might be an indication of an increase, “going back to what pertained previously, you would not see that happening on that scale, because previously it was foreign-funded.”
“There were a lot of foreign- funded [programmes] in Guyana, in the Caribbean…what you see happening in Guyana it is not only happening in Guyana but throughout the Caribbean, where funds have dried up,” Minister Lawrence added.
The consequence, she noted, is that many of the non-governmental organisations that were gatekeepers are no longer in existence or are not longer working in a wide areas as they did before, because of the lack of the support. She however assured that at the level of the Public Health Minister, “we will do whatever we can with the budget that we have to ensure that we come up with some new strategies to get the message out there.”
But according to the Minister, her Ministry has not been working in isolation, but rather, has been forging partnerships with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Protection in order to meet the adolescent population.
This tactic is imperative, the Minister said, “to ensure that they [adolescents] know what to do and give them the tools. We have been sharing thousands of condoms out there and we will continue to do that, we will continue to collaborate, not only with our sister agencies, but with NGOs also, that continue to work with us.”
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