Drugs already here for HIV patients -Ramsammy
Hundreds at Phillip Vanderhyden walk By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
October 29, 2001

Hundreds of persons turned out yesterday morning for the Phillip Vanderhyden walk - an annual event that seeks to muster support for the fight against the dreaded AIDS disease.

And Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy disclosed that the first set of affordable drugs for infected persons is already here for the November 1 distribution date.

At a press conference earlier this month, the minister had announced that the drugs will be available for not more than US$300 per annum. This is far below the commercially quoted prices of US$10,000 to US$12,000 per annum. He, however, did not say if the patients would be paying for the drugs themselves and had hinted that the government might try to assist.

The Phillip Vanderhyden walk is co-ordinated by Lifeline Counselling Service which celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier last week.

The walk commenced at the Bank of Guyana at 6:30 am and concluded at the National Culture Centre. The walk was held under the national AIDS theme, `I care. Do You?' and `Ready body, is it really ready?'

Executive Director of Lifeline, Jimmy Bhojedat said that yesterday's turnout was the largest he has seen since the walk was initiated.

When the walk first began it was not named after Phillip Vanderhyden and according to Bhojedat only about thirty persons turned up on the first try. The walk was named after Vanderhyden in 1999 after he succumbed to the dreaded disease.

Bhojedat described Vanderhyden as the first AIDS victim who publicly advocated for support for persons affected by the disease and also impressed on those not suffering from it to practise safe sex.

Some of the organisations that participated in the walk included the Mayor & City Council, Lifeline, the Georgetown Sewerage & Water Commissioners, the Guyana Junior Chamber, the Linden Mining Enterprise, Youth Challenge, the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture, the People's National Con-gress REFORM, Medi-Care Pharmacy, the Volunteer Youth Corps, the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, Artists In Direct Support and the Guyana HIV/ AIDS/STI Youth Project.

When the walkers arrived at the Cultural Centre tarmac, Bhojedat called for a minute's silence in remembrance of Vanderhyden and all those who succumbed to the disease.

In brief remarks United States Ambassador to Guyana, Ronald Godard, told the participants their strong turnout showed that they are in solidarity in of the greatest struggles in human history.

Assistant Representative for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Dr Sreelakshmi Gururaja said the participants should ask themselves what they can do to prevent the spread of the HIV virus which causes AIDS.

Ramsammy in his remarks told that participant that they all have the responsibility of continuing to get persons involved in the fight and also to make sure that "not one more Guyanese is infected by the disease." He cautioned them not to push those infected aside but to continue to love and support them.

He again announced that cheap treatment for those affected will be available from November 1 and that all those who are identified as infected will receive medication.

Dr Ramsammy said that the programme to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus will be launched on November 5 at the Dorothy Bailey Daycare Centre on South Road.

Patron of Lifeline, Audrey Glover, wife of the British High Commissioner, told the participants that Vanderhyden and others like him helped to give dignity and respect to those affected. Still, she said, there is a lot more to be done.