HIV/AIDS medication to be accessible countrywide by year-end

Guyana Chronicle
March 2, 2003

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THE Ministry of Health has embarked on a massive immunisation campaign aimed at vaccinating over 96 per cent of the nation's children against all the antigens for which immunisation is available.

Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) has a specific immunisation programme in place as part of the sector's move to accelerate health promotion this year.

An integral aspect of this drive is the accreditation of all laboratories that will be required to undergo a proficiency test, the Health Minister noted.

He said environmental health has also emerged as a major issue this year and this will be interwoven in the drafting of a new Public Health Legislation.

A new national health plan for the country was expected to be finalised within the past week, and according to the Minister, the Ministry is moving to reorganisation agencies within the sector which are critical to the smooth functioning of the national health plan.

Included among them is the Materials Management Unit (MMU) that is responsible for procuring and distributing drugs and medical supplies.

"We're in the process of putting in new mechanisms that will ensure that every health facility has enough drugs and supplies," Minister Ramsammy said.

This year, the Health Ministry also plans to expand its Direct Observation Therapy Treatment for Tuberculosis (DOTS), Dr. Ramsammy pointed out. He said that the sector has encountered difficulties with patients who refuse to take their pills despite their availability and issuance.

He explained: "The DOTS programme will involve the health worker's supervision of the TB patient to take his pill." In an effort to ensure the effectiveness of this programme, the Health Ministry plans to train community workers and family members to complement the sector's health care providers to administer the required medication.

Meanwhile, a Health Promotion Coordinator will soon be on board at the Health Ministry to boost the attempts of the sector towards creating health promoting communities and schools.

In Georgetown, St. Joseph High was declared a health-promoting school a few weeks ago, along with Laluni Secondary located on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway.

Following closely behind these health-promoting schools is the Abraham Zuil Secondary School on the Essequibo Coast, which joined the batch on February 26. Bush Lot and Lower Corentyne Secondary Schools in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) are set to join the growing list of health-promoting schools early this month.

Minister Ramsammy said that in terms of encouraging health promotion in communities across the country, Leguan, Sophia, Annandale and Wismar are to be officially declared health-promoting communities in a few weeks.

Among the existing health-promoting communities are Mahdia, Kumaka, Rocksville, and Good Hope.

Touching on the ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS, with specific emphasis on the Ministry's treatment of pregnant mothers who are HIV-positive, medically coined as the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), Dr. Ramsammy said the Ministry hopes to have a national thrust by year-end.

At the moment, the treatment is limited to Regions four and six, but it is envisaged that patients throughout the ten Administrative Regions of the country will have equal access.

The Health Ministry is also aiming at nationally expanding the availability of anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS treatment, further than the Suddie Hospital, on West Demerara and Georgetown. This will greatly reduce the travels of patients residing in outlying regions of the country, to Georgetown.

With specialist staff training also forming an integral part of the health sector's plan of action for 2003, and training to mange the health sector, some 10 health workers are slated to benefit from distance learning through the London School of Tropical Medicine, Dr. Ramsammy offered. (GINA)

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