AIDS cases for first quarter up significantly over last year
Wake up call scheduled for June 25

Stabroek News
June 19, 2001

In the backdrop of a higher number of AIDS cases here, Guyana will be paying keen attention to the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on HIV/AIDS which is set to take place from June 25-27.

At this session, it is hoped an agreement will be reached by member states for a global AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) action plan.

In celebration of the commencement of UNGASS, you may find yourself being awakened in the early hours of the morning by "Wake Up Guyana!" - a call to awareness and action being urged by the National AIDS Committee (NAC).

All churches, mandirs, masjids, bell-criers, shell-blowers, institutions with sirens and horns will be invited to sound a wake up call across Guyana between 5 am and 6 am on June 25.

The NAC is also hoping that organisations will formulate an 'action plan' to display their awareness of the pandemic as well as disseminate HIV/AIDS information to members and friends under the theme - "Prevention and Responsible Behaviour."

According to the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), 100 cases of AIDS, three AIDS-related deaths and 96 new cases of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) infection were recorded in the first quarter of this year.

Last year's corresponding figure of 41 cases of AIDS reveals a 143% increase. However, this jump is probably due to the recent strengthening of HIV/AIDS surveillance systems in Guyana.

The results of the survey were released at the 2nd Quarterly Meeting of the NAC and the Regional AIDS Committees (RACs) held recently at the Nurses Hostel, West Demerara Regional Hospital.

According to a press release issued last week, members at the meeting noted that the figures were still "not representative of the total number of persons infected with the virus."

One of the reasons given for the potential inaccuracy was the possibility that not "all private medical practitioners and laboratories were submitting statistics to the Ministry of Health."

Such neglect would not be in keeping with the National Policy on HIV/AIDS.

The release stated that "the importance of data gathering was noted as one of the basic steps in surveillance in order to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as the impact on educational and treatment programmes."

Other news from NAPS include the installation of Voluntary Testing Sites in Regions 3, 4, 5 and 6, the imminent establishment of a pilot scheme for dealing with HIV and Safe Motherhood and a warning to all health care workers to "take precautions to protect themselves and patients from transmission of HIV."

"It was noted that in some medical institutions the disposal of sharps (needles, blades, etc.) is still highly unsatisfactory," the release stated.