At New Amsterdam observance…
Ramsammy calls for unity in fight against AIDS

Guyana Chronicle
December 4, 2002

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MINISTER of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy yesterday called on Guyanese to unite in the fight against the deadly AIDS disease.

"If there is one thing that can unite us, in spite of our religious backgrounds, ethnicity or political affiliation, it is AIDS, as it sees no barriers and attacks anyone, “he said Monday afternoon, in an address to the gathering at Esplanade Recreation Ground, observing World AIDS Day, December 1.

Ramsammy reminded youths that HIV/AIDS is a serious problem.

He said: “We often believe it belongs to someone else, but it is our problem, it is our business. It is not the rich or poor, old or young, educated or uneducated who would be infected. We all can be affected by the virus."

Alluding to his recent visit to Africa, where he witnessed devastation by the epidemic which left millions of children orphaned, the Minister warned: “If we do not unite in the fight as a nation, we can also be destroyed, as 25,000 Guyanese are currently living with the disease and two die daily.”

Ramsammy said the dangerous virus not only destroys families but the economy and it will cost the Government $2 billion, more than one-third of the health budget, to address the issue.

He pleaded with the mainly youthful crowd to abstain from unsafe sex and wait until they are certain they have chosen faithful partners.

Meantime, Ramsammy urged them to be supportive of the drive to remove the stigma from those tested HIV positive, so that they can be treated with the anti-retroviral, free of charge.

"Although we are a poor country, we care. We are ready for the fight. Guyana can stem the tide and win the battle," he assured.

Acting President of the non-governmental organisation ‘Comforting Hearts’, Ms Genieva Amsterdam, in her remarks on the theme ‘Stop the stigma and discrimination, Live and Let others Live’, challenged the throng to educate their peers towards a changed lifestyle.

"It is about your behaviour. AIDS does not discriminate. It attacks at every level of the society. You have got to realise and be always aware of the pangs of the deadly disease,” she said.

Those in attendance at the observance were requested to repeat and sign a document saying: “We do solemnly declare and pledge that we shall relate to people living with HIV/AIDS in a compassionate and caring manner.

“Further, we pledge not to discriminate against and stigmatise people who are living with HIV/AIDS. We pledge to adopt and encourage others to adapt lifestyles that will promote the prevention of HIV/AIDS."

Prior to the speeches, schoolchildren from primary and secondary schools and staff of New Amsterdam and National Psychiatric Hospitals marched through the main thoroughfare of the town from Tacuma Turn.

Among them were Hospital Administrator, Ms Audrey Field, Regional Health Officer, Dr Joseph Khalika Persaud and Matrons Tinne and Crandon.

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