Health Minister wants AIDS data 'set straight'

by Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
January 12, 2000

HEALTH Minister Dr Henry Jeffrey has challenged health personnel to set records straight in the face of conflicting data on HIV/AIDS in Guyana.

With such information available, he posited, the country would be better able to focus resources in the fight against the dreaded scourge of AIDS.

It will also prove valuable for personnel to map areas where intensified intervention is needed, Jeffrey told the opening session of a four-day HIV Laboratory Diagnosis and Biosafety Workshop at the Ocean View Convention Centre, Liliendaal.

Dr Jeffrey also suggested that the time has come when Guyana needs to test every "single" pregnant woman for AIDS, in order to help reduce the mother-to-child transmission of the disease.

The workshop, which targets laboratory technicians, is sponsored by the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) with Pan American Health Organisation and World Health Organisation (CAREC/PAHO/WHO) in collaboration with the local National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS).

Other personnel present included Dr Maxine Swain, Director, National AIDS Programme; Dr Clement McEwan, Director, National Transfusion Service; and CAREC officials, Ms Wendy Kiston-Piggot and Ms Ingrid Abbott-Permell.

Minister Jeffrey who said the Guyana Government has already signalled its intention of participating in all social organisations in an effort to combat AIDS, described Guyana as a small country with a big problem.

Noting that the problem is not surmountable, the Health Minister said "we have to start somewhere" and he stressed the importance of getting persons to act on the knowledge available.

Alluding to the $340M AIDS programme being embarked on by Guyana, the Minister said the problem is not acquiring the money. Instead it is one of getting the human resources with a willingness and the capacity to work.

Scotching claims that there is a shortage of drugs to adequately deal with AIDS, Jeffrey said the problem is one of managerial bottlenecks.

Ms Kiston-Piggot, one of the facilitators of the workshop, underscored the importance of HIV safety, and safety in the laboratories.

To this end she urged the laboratory technologists to join the fight in making blood supplies safe and HIV testing reliable.

She noted that HIV testing is a complex exercise, and that laboratory staff need to appreciate this fact.

Kiston-Piggot said that in the final analysis, it is through the efforts of the Ministry of Health, health data from all levels, and laboratory staff in particular that diseases such as HIV/AIDS will be controlled and blood supplies kept safe.

The CAREC official remarked, "Anyone of us here may have to be the recipient of a clean blood transfusion supply any day."

Dr Swain, in closing remarks, assured the Minister that before the end of the year, a prevention programme, involving mother and child, will be launched.

She promised, too, to have proper data on AIDS in place.

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