All doctors' offices should have information on HIV/AIDS
Stabroek News
July 9, 2001

Dear Editor,
The concern for AIDS must not be in waves of interests but a constant barrage of the right artillery. There is nothing more important than life itself. HIV/AIDS is about life and death. What will it take to create an immediate urgency? What we fail to do now will certainly affect the next several generations.

The AIDS population in Guyana is staggering and distressing. How many people really know about the danger of this lethal pandemic? On a recent visit, I could not find HIV/AIDS information in a doctor's office. The receptionist could not provide any kind of statistical information or tell me where to find such information. HIV/AIDS is not a "hush hush" issue. It is an incurable disease that leads to death. It is not about who you are but what you do.

According to the Center for Disease Control (USA), globally, 2.6 million people died of AIDS in 1999. It is estimated that 16,000 people are newly infected with HIV each day throughout the world. How many are infected in Guyana on a daily basis? One is too much.

The most important message is Prevention through Education. Prevention can be done through group counselling, community outreach and churches. AIDS prevention is imperative to eradicate this lethal disease. The message must be without apology that AIDS kills. The message must be inclusive because AIDS is no respecter of person, colour or creed. Unprotected sex naturally leads to HIV, which leads to AIDS, which leads to a painful death. Once you have HIV/AIDS you have no remedy or cure. A slow and painful death is the absolute result.

What needs to be done now is education. Medical and scientific research must continue in order to find a vaccine. However, if a vaccine were to be developed and found effective tomorrow, it would still take another 40 years to eradicate the HIV virus from the face of this planet.

The safest way to prevent HIV/AIDS is faithfulness to one's partner. It is risky business to fool around at the expense of your life. A few minutes of excitement may lead to years of suffering.

The reality is that AIDS is upon us and it demands attention. Denying or ignoring the existence of HIV/AIDS is detrimental to the future of this nation. Without safer sexual practice AIDS continues its rampage and claims lives daily. It is important to compile data and develop programmes. However, there must be a constant surveillance system. There must be evaluation for effectiveness. The strategy must be comprehensive.

Sex workers/traders are at risk like anyone engaging in sex requiring protection. Most of the time the need for money outweighs the need for protected sex. The need for drugs overrides negotiation to use a condom. A "slow business day" increases the desperation for money. The result is AIDS through unprotected sex.

What should be done?
1. Research must continue
2. Increased funding is necessary
3. Address sex trade issue
4. Develop effective community-based programmes
5. Specialized staff is necessary
6. Address the drug issue
7. Develop drug treatment centres
8. Diagnose and treat effectively
Prevention and Education are two sides of the same coin.

Yours faithfully,
Dr Ramesh Deosarran