Ramsammy pledges hands?on approach to HIV fight
Stabroek News
September 7, 2001

Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy will take a hands?on approach to the fight to halt the spread of HIV and AIDS in Guyana and announced yesterday that the National AIDS Programme (NAP) manager will report directly to him.

Ramsammy, who said he felt very strongly about the AIDS situation in Guyana, revealed that NAP Manager, Dr Morris Edwards would now be reporting directly to him and he would be in charge. "I am taking direct control," the minister said.

He stated that the secretariat had made tangible and concrete responses in keeping with the seriousness of the AIDS problem in Guyana.

And from next month the Ministry of Health will commence a programme that will ultimately see a reduction of mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus.

Speaking at a press conference, Ramsammy said that commencement of the programme, which has been in the works for some time now, was delayed because of the late arrival of the necessary drugs. He said that there was also a need to boost the capacity of health centres to test pregnant mothers, especially those living in the inland areas.

He added that the greatest constraint was the need for counselling of persons affected, but the United Nation Children's Fund (UNICEF) has agreed to provide the ministry with technical assistance. "The programme will get off the ground in October," the minister said.

And in the ministry's drive to fight the rising number of HIV infected cases, Ramsammy said that the government was now at a very "sensitive" stage in negotiating for affordable anti-HIV drugs. The minister said that the negotiations were so sensitive he could not go into details.

He also did not say whether the government was negotiating with India's Cipla Ltd, which is offering the drugs at less than US$1 a day. Earlier this year, Dr Ramsammy had said that the government was speaking to the company but yesterday he refused to state which company the government was negotiating with.

The minister also disclosed that at a meeting of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Theme Group held at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on September 4, he spoke extensively on Guyana's national strategic plan, on which, he said, there has been too much talk and very little action.

However, he said that the implementation of the strategic plan must be based on 12 pillars in order for to achieve its objectives. The plan focuses mainly on reducing the transmission of HIV and STIs (sexual transmitted infections); the prevalence of undiagnosed HIV/STIs; unintended pregnancy rates; substance abuse; alcoholism and denial, stigmatization and discrimination and on improving health and social care of people living with HIV/AIDS and maintaining and evaluating the country's progress.

According to Dr Ramsammy the 12 pillars on which the achievement of the goals would be based are political will and leadership; partnership and inter-sectoral collaboration; education and awareness must be community based; health promotion; epidemiological surveillance and research; the media; treatment and care; targeted public health responses; public policies; technical cooperation between countries and technical agencies; sustainable financing; and building capacity, monitoring and evaluation. (Samantha Alleyne)