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In addition to intensifying efforts in prevention, Guyana has also directed attention to those who have already been affected, their families and friends, Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said in a message to mark World AIDS Day 2002.
The full text of the message follows:
“TODAY, Guyana joins the rest of the world in marking another World AIDS Day. It is the day set aside around the world for us as individuals, as families, as communities and as countries to remind ourselves of the great danger that lurks in our midst and to recommit ourselves to the fight against this great human malady of HIV/AIDS.
There is no doubt that Guyana has embarked on an enhanced strategy to combat HIV/AIDS. I am encouraged that people from all walks and from various kinds of organisations have joined the battle. I am encouraged that families and communities have become involved. I am especially delighted that the church - Christians, Muslims and Hindus - have significantly enhanced their efforts. It is with much gratification that I observe the number of work place programmes in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The efforts of teachers and children in schools are significant in the successful fight against HIV/AIDS. The fact that sports club and other youth clubs have made the fight against HIV/AIDS an important part of their mission is extremely encouraging. The fight against HIV/AIDS has served as an impetus for well-established Neighbourhood Democratic Organisations (NGOs) to increase their community efforts and to spawn new NGOs, evidence of the enhanced community response. Happily, persons already living with HIV/AIDS have also joined the battle to confront HIV/AIDS. They have become an integral part of the fight. Thus, truly, Guyana has forged a national response to the epidemic.
Guyana has taken several bold initiatives over the past year. While we have intensified our efforts in prevention, we have also directed our attention to those who have unfortunately already been affected, those who are living with HIV/AIDS and their families and friends. Guyana’s decision to produce anti-retroviral drugs and making them accessible to those living with HIV/AIDS was the kind of boldness than the epidemic demanded. The result has been dramatic for those who have benefitted from treatment.
Because of the way HIV/AIDS emerged more than 20 years ago, there has been great stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS. People living with HIV/AIDS have suffered not only from the ravages of the disease, but also from the unkindness of their bothers and sisters who treated them as outcasts. Much of this has been because of misconceptions and lack of information. Much also derived from the hopelessness associated with the disease. But we have come a far way. More people have information. The great hopelessness associated with HIV/AIDS has diminished with the proven tools at our disposal - that is, that HIV/AIDS could be prevented and that it is entirely without our capacities to do so and also because we now have powerful drugs that could control the disease process in those who live with HIV/AIDS.
This year's theme, `Live and Let Live - Stop Stigma and Discrimination’ is most apt at this time. Compassion must be at the very heart of our fight. If we do not care enough for those already affected, we cannot be moved enough to prevent others from being affected. Thus, we each must see the fight as a common fight. We must see those living with HIV/AIDS as our brothers and sisters who have been victimised by an enemy. For those of our felled brothers and sisters, those who could not withstand the ravages of HIV/AIDS, we must pay appropriate tribute. They have paid a price for our survival. For those who live now with HIV/AIDS, we must encourage them and we must join hands with them to ensure that they could live longer, healthier lives and those who have succumbed to HIV. We must extend our solidarity to their families and friends.
In recognising that the fight against HIV/AIDS is a common fight, is a Guyanese fight, we have made a very significant step towards winning the battle against HIV/AIDS. In our fraternal response, we must be ready to recognise our shortcoming and to acknowledge the efforts of the many. In walking together, we derive the confidence that we will win.
Live and Let Live. Stop Stigma and Discrimination.