World AIDS Day theme
Stop stigma and discrimination

Stabroek News
October 25, 2002

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For the first time since AIDS began affecting persons here around two decades ago, the World AIDS campaign this year will focus on the stigma of the disease and discrimination against infected persons.

`Stop Stigma and Discrimination: Live and let others Live', is this year's theme of the international campaign which will culminate on December 1, `World AIDS Day'.

The National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health yesterday launched the World AIDS campaign in the Rupununi Room of Hotel Tower.

Also launched yesterday was a programme to place a number of condom vending machines around the country giving people easier access to protection. The day's programme was spiced up with performances from members of the Artists In Direct Support group.

Programme Manager of NAPS, Dr Morris Edwards said infected persons are greatly affected since they sometimes are denied medical attention. They are pointed out by persons, some of them lose their jobs and sometimes cannot migrate to other countries because of their condition.

"We must work continuously to reduce stigma and discrimination," Dr Edwards said.

These were the same sentiments echoed by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Representative, Dr Sreelakshmi Guruaja who stated that regardless of one's status every citizen is affected by the virus. She stressed the need for individual and collective efforts to maintain equality and justice for those infected persons.

Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy in his address pointed out that in Guyana's initial fight against the virus there was a failure to bring the response to the virus into the communities. However, efforts have since materialised for this to happen and the government along with several ministries, NGOs, schools, sports clubs and churches are now included in the fight in the different communities. "All of us have to play a role," the minister urged. He said there is need for a new attitude from people to stop the discrimination as those affected are everyone's brothers and sisters.

"It is a Guyanese fight and the victory will be a Guyanese victory," the minister said.

He added that people should be encouraged to come forward and be tested so that their conditions could be known. The virus is no longer a death sentence, he advised.

Activities for the campaign have been planned in Regions Three, Four, Five, Seven and Ten.

NAPS has planned a red ribbon competition and prize-giving ceremony for all the regions which will be convened in secondary schools in Guyana. Some of the activities include: an open air rally and candlelight ceremony in Bartica, the Phillip Vanderhyden walk-a-thon in Georgetown, an interfaith service and walk-a-thon in Region Five, HIV/AIDS sensitisation workshops in Regions Three and Five, HIV/AIDS sensitisation in schools in Region Ten, information booths at the University of Guyana and Medicare Pharmacy. HIV/AIDS video shows in Linden, a candlelight parade and concert at the Christianburg Community Centre, a Top 20 football match in Linden and the Flame and the Ribbon show at the National Cultural Centre are also planned.

The condom vending machines which carry some seventy packets of condoms at one time will be located in the city, Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara, Buxton Public Road, Plaisance Line Top, Linden, Bartica, New Amsterdam, East Canje, Berbice and Rosignol, Berbice. To operate the machine you need two $10 coins, waiting for the first coin to drop before placing the other coin in the slot. You then pull and release the knob quickly and one box containing three condoms will drop in the tray below.