Ramsammy outlines national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS
Guyana Chronicle
October 11, 2002

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THE programme in observance of World AIDS Day 2002, on December 1, will target young people, especially those at school, according to Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.

In a Government Information Agency (GINA) interview, he said the rationale behind that thrust is to achieve the ministry's aim of edifying the youth about the disease, which mostly affects that group.

He said research has revealed that mainly people between the ages of 15 and 39 are infected with HIV/AIDS and in Guyana they number more than 20,000, or one in every four.

Ramsammy said, as a result, many of the programmes embarked upon by the Government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other groups to combat the sickness are targeting that age range.

The main objective is to educate people on how they can become infected and, if already infected, how they can prevent the spread of the virus but there are also programmes to inform about treatment and care available.

Minister Ramsammy said he will be meeting schoolchildren and teachers with a view to establishing health clubs in schools, to provide education on various health and social issues, including HIV/AIDS, chronic diseases, obesity, teenage pregnancy and child abuse.

Last week, he met students of Lower Corentyne Comprehensive and launched the first school programme in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne).

GINA said several activities, among them educational programmes and solidarity marches, took place last year and red ribbons were pinned on people's garments to signify the heightened awareness and commitment to the global struggle.

World AIDS Day observances were inaugurated locally in 1988, one year after Guyana acknowledged the problem by documenting its first case of HIV.

Since then, a national strategic plan has been crafted to fight the epidemic but it has not yet been fully implemented although revised and incorporated in the Health Ministry projection for 2002-2006.

The approach includes an awareness and education component, in addition to treatment and care and a drive has started to prevent mother to child transmission of the virus, GINA said.

Ramsammy said the Government has spent $100M on the initial batch of anti-retroviral tablets available for local patients and has trained doctors to use medicines such as Nucleoside Reverse Transcrippase Inhibitors (NRTI), Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcrippase Inhibitors (NNRTI) and Proteinase.

He said laboratory facilities, too, were upgraded to conduct viral load tests at public hospitals and he is working, in collaboration with the Sisters of Mercy, to come up with a hospice for AIDS patients.

Sisters of Mercy will provide the building and manpower and the Government the technical staff and drugs.

Meantime, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation is collaborating with the Sisters to improve the quality of care delivered at that institution, GINA said.

GINA corrects HIV/AIDS release
A GOVERNMENT Information Agency (GINA) release, published in Guyana Chronicle of Friday, October 11, under the caption ’Ramsammy outlines national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS’, contained an error in the third paragraph.

Instead of stating that one in every four persons between the ages of 15 and 39 in Guyana are infected, it should have said one in every 20 persons of that age group.

GINA tendered its sincere apology for what it called a “typographical error”.