Health Minister presents four-year strategy for combating HIV/AIDS
By Shawnel Cudjoe
Guyana Chronicle
February 18, 2003

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THE Government’s National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS for 2002-2006, which is aimed at reducing the economic and social impact of the disease on individuals, communities and eventually the entire country, was yesterday presented to the media by Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy.

The presentation of the 30-page report, entitled: ‘Securing the Nation’s Future’, was made at the Ministry of Health, Brickdam, Georgetown.

According to Ramsammy, Guyana is set to benefit from a total of $10 Billion for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and 15M for the broad plan of combating HIV/AIDS. These sums of money are expected from international sources.

Ramsammy indicated that the previous plan failed because of a lack of resources such as adequate financing.

However, due to wider consultations and the participation of Government officials and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) among others, the current plan is a better one, he said.

The total amount of money allocated for the fight against the disease in the budget is $3.95 Billion.

This money will be spent on surveillance, which was described as the “cornerstone” of the execution and monitoring of the National Strategic Plan.

It will provide information on the extent of the epidemic, the population groups most affected and the behaviours driving the epidemic.

The second stage of the plan has to do with the care, treatment and support that will enable infected persons to have prolonged lives and also contribute to the reduction of the spread of the disease.

Thirdly, the plan is aimed at reducing the risks of persons contracting the disease.

There will also be management, coordination and policy formulation to ensure that the plan is very successful.

According to the booklet outlining the plan, some positives out of the 1999-2001 plan were increased availability of voluntary counselling and testing, provision of safe blood and blood products through donor screening, and the development of a programme to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the disease.

It was also noted that the National Strategic Plan 2002-2006 is a bold attempt to heighten the national response that has been expanding since 1999. The Plan recognises that the tools necessary for a successful challenge to the HIV/AIDS crisis are available. Importantly, the Plan is characterised by its acknowledgement that for it to be a successful programme, it must be nationally driven.

“It must be Guyana’s plan,” the report states, adding that “although assistance, technical and financial from international sources, is critically important, success is only possible if the programme has local ownership.”

According to Ramsammy, “While the enormity of the problem cannot escape us, there is a glimmer of hope”.

“There are many indigenous best practices to be emulated. There are also best practices in many countries around the world. We must learn from both the best practices and from poor countries around the world,” he stated.

Ramsammy said, too, that the National Strategic Plan is an example of how Guyanese can work together to resolve problems and to mount successful responses to serious challenges.

He urged the speedy implementation of “this very ambitious programme” and contended that he has no doubt that with the right leadership success will follow.

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