In rallying call...
Bisnauth says HIV/AIDS more destructive than Iraq war

Guyana Chronicle
April 3, 2003

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Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy at the podium delivering the feature address. Seated are, from left, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Ms Mitra Devi Ally, Executive Director of Consultative Association of Guyanese Industries (CGAI), Mr David Yankana and Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Dr Dale Bisnauth.

MINISTER of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Dr Dale Bisnauth has declared war on HIV/AIDS, saying it is the greatest threat to the workforce in this era.

He was making a rallying call, to a tripartite meeting on 'HIV/AIDS and the World of Work', in Main Street, Georgetown Hotel Tower, on Tuesday.

It was the start of Occupational Health and Safety month observance, under the theme 'Promoting a Safe and Healthy Culture at Work'.

"We must seek to establish a platform for action, a beachhead to launch an offensive and mobilise for war against a disease that has a ravaging impact on family, industry and the national economy," Bisnauth appealed.

He said the impact of the affliction is much more destructive than that of the conventional warfare currently on in Iraq.

Calling for a coalition at the regional, national and international fronts, the minister said there is need to include those in informal and self-employing businesses.

"All must be involved or all will be consumed," he maintained, warning that the dreaded disease poses a great danger and demands an immediate response.

The forum, jointly organised by ministries of Labour, Human Services and Social Security and Health, also heard Minister Bisnauth appeal for collaboration at all levels of society to destroy the menace.

According to him, the main objectives of the programme of activities for April is to raise national awareness and promote health and safety in the workplace.

There is an important and urgent necessity to combat the scourge in every working environment, with all energy and resources, bearing in mind the fragility of the nation's economy, Bisnauth said.

He challenged all Guyanese to get involved and engage that common enemy to eradicate it from Guyana.

The event targeted Government, Labour and Business leaders to sensitise them on the issues relevant for the development and implementation of mutually beneficial actions to counter the pandemic and, by the end of it, about 100 people who attended had a better understanding of the aims which include to:

* share, with other stakeholders, information about the effect of HIV/AIDS on enterprises, labour and the national economy;
* provide information to stakeholders on what strategies are in place and their involvement in the expanded multi-sectoral response;
* solicit the support of the participants to sign on to a declaration of commitment to the tripartite approach and
* provide information on the building of partnerships and business
coalitions in response to the crisis.

Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, Principal Assistant Secretary of Guyana Trades Union Congress, Mr. Andrew Garnett and Executive Director of Consultative Association of Guyanese Industries (CAGI), Mr. David Yankana made remarks on the occasion, as well.

Ramsammy called on the Finance Ministry to allocate appropriate funding and said community leaders, educational institutions and religious organisations have to be more pro-active in the fight, too.

Yankana said three out of every 14 Guyanese are HIV positive and, with a population of approximately 700,000, it means some 280,000 are affected.

Statistics circulated at the meeting indicated that 95 per cent of the estimated 34,000,000 people infected worldwide are living in developing countries and the infection is increasing rapidly in the Caribbean, which ranks second only to sub-Saharan Africa in the prevalence rate.

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