Bauxite union alarmed at lack of HIV/AIDS legislation

Guyana Chronicle
February 11, 2000

THE Guyana Bauxite and General Worker's Union (GB&GWU) has observed that legislation on HIV/AIDS prevention and control which was first drafted in 1994, is yet to be passed as law.

The union, in a release, indicated that it realised there was no HIV/AIDS law during the course of planning a forthcoming public education exercise on HIV/AIDS for its members.

"This serious lapse by policy-makers in the national health sector and by those responsible for enacting national laws, makes a mockery of reliable information to the effect (that) the HIV/AIDS has reached epidemic proportions in Guyana," the GB&GWU claimed.

The union said in the absence of clear legislation it is "impossible to plan and execute initiatives which can develop and strengthen national HIV/AIDS-related institutions and properly target vulnerable groups with prevention and control programmes".

"The GB&GWU is of the view that the recommended amendments to the existing draft legislation must be included in a new draft which should be taken to Parliament with the greatest haste."

The union added that limited scope of the National AIDS Secretariat and the Genito-Urinary Clinic at the Georgetown Hospital, particularly the inability of these critical agencies to provide an effective service in highly vulnerable non-urban communities, strongly suggests that the Government, non-governmental organisations and the society, as a whole, continue to be insensitive to what is "the single greatest threat to the long-term development of our country".

According to the GB&GWU, official statistics indicate that during the first six months of 1999, alone, 161 new cases of AIDS were recorded. Of these, more than 40 per cent are victims in the prime of their lives.

As a consequence, the productive capacity of these persons will be severely reduced, the union stated.

"...Despite the evident nature of the threat posed by HIV/AIDS there appears to be no corresponding official initiative to address the critical issues of prevention and control," the union argued.

It added: "The national media network which ought correctly to be strenuously supporting a national HIV/AIDS public education programme, continues to be preoccupied with issues of infinite lesser importance."

As part of its own HIV/AIDS public education initiative the GB&GWU will soon hold talks with the Guyana Trades Union Congress, to recommend that it develop an official policy on HIV/AIDS and mount a vigorous public education programme which targets workers.

"At the same time, the GB&GWU calls on the GTUC to continually `bombard' the relevant authorities for the passage of HIV/AIDS legislation in the shortest possible time.

"The GB&GWU further calls on the Minister of Health, the Government of Guyana, the private sector and civil society to wake up quickly to the reality of HIV/AIDS and to begin to channel an adequate level of resources into those agencies which play a role in prevention and control."

The union said the phenomenon of HIV/AIDS is not merely a health problem.

"It is a social and developmental problem which requires the total involvement of the society."