Guyana to query rejection of proposal to Global AIDS Fund By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
May 11, 2002

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Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy is unable to say why Guyana's application for funding from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was refused, but it is an issue he plans to take up next week in Geneva during the World Health Assembly.

The minister said he would attempt to determine exactly what happened to the country's proposal and pursue interim arrangements to get funding.

During the United States and Caribbean Health Ministers' one-day meeting held in Guyana last month, US Secretary for Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, had announced that Guyana's proposal was refused. Thompson, who serves as the US representative on the fund's board had announced that one applicant from the region - Haiti - had been recommended to the board for funding. However, three other applicants, CARICOM, Guyana and the Dominican Republic were not.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Ramsammy said he only learnt about Guyana's proposal being refused a short while before Thompson's announcement. The minister said he had raised the issue with Thompson just before he made the announcement, pointing out to him that Guyana's proposal would be coming up at the board's meeting. It was then that the US health secretary checked his records and realised that Guyana was not listed for the board meeting, Ramsammy said.

According to minister, the Global Fund gave countries very short notice and as such Guyana's proposal was only one of four that went from the region.

He said that he and his officers worked late into the night everyday for the two weeks they had to prepare the proposal. "As soon as I received it I told my officers... and some people obviously were tempted to say let's take our time and wait for the second go around. My instruction was no, we will meet the deadline and we did. And I thought we had a very good proposal," the minister said.

Ramsammy said just two days after they submitted the proposal, the day before the deadline, they received an e-mail requesting some minor clarifications. "At that point we thought, well if that is all they want we are going to be okay," the minister said.

The minister said that subsequently he heard that Guyana's and CARICOM's proposals had moved on, "but then to our great chagrin we discovered, when one of the members of the board came here, that Guyana's proposal was not funded.

"Now what does that mean? Does it mean that Guyana is still being short-listed for the next go around?" the minister questioned. He said that the country was in "no man's land."

However, he said there was an indication that all the countries that submitted proposals, which have been refused, would be formally notified next week at the assembly. He said that during the assembly he would meet several Global Fund board members and would attempt to pursue the issue.

At the conference, Thompson had said that Guyana and others, which have been refused, would be eligible for the next tranche of funding.

But Ramsammy yesterday said that in the meantime Guyana was not waiting since the country was already working on expanding the original proposal. He said that because of the short period they had, they had limited the proposal to just HIV and AIDS and tuberculosis, but the fund also caters for malaria, which would be included in the expanded proposal. He said this time he would ensure that the proposal received fuller consideration.

The minister opined that the Global Fund board members were under pressure and were unable to look at all of the proposals. But, he said, since they wanted to create a positive image to show that it was not just talk, they selected a few of the proposals and gave them funding immediately so as to give themselves some time to work on the larger number of proposals.

Ramsammy was quite sure yesterday the refusal of Guyana's proposal had nothing to do with the fact that the country recently commenced manufacturing anti-retroviral drugs since according to him the Global Fund, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other groups had backed countries going in the direction of producing their own anti-retrovirals.

Among other issues which the minister would be pursuing at the assembly, an annual get together of the WHO, is the `Roll Back Malaria' programme and Guyana's inability to obtain DDT which has been a main component of Guyana's vector control programme. The minister disclosed that in the previous year Guyana was unable to obtain DDT through the normal sources. He said that in the past Guyana has received DDT from Colombia but countries have had until 2005 to ease the use of DDT and even before the deadline some of the other international rules governing the use of DDT have stepped in and made it difficult for countries that provide the DDT to ship it out.

As such Colombia is unable to provide DDT to Guyana and therefore Guyana would have to seek alternatives to this chemical, which according to the minister would be more expensive. The minister said he was hoping to pursue this issue in Geneva. He also said that mental health was another issue he planned to tackle while overseas.