Comforting Hearts assisting HIV/AIDS persons in Berbice
Stabroek News
February 19, 2003

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Comforting Hearts, an NGO based in New Amsterdam, is endeavouring to demonstrate that persons infected by HIV/ AIDS can live vigorous, healthy and productive lives when they have access to information, treatment and care as well as family and peer group support.

In Guyana, as in many other parts of the world, HIV/ AIDS is often associated with stigma, ostracism and discrimination as infected persons are rejected by their families, partners and communities.

Comforting Hearts which is located at 1513 Cooper’s Lane, New Amsterdam has taken on the challenge of countering the negative reactions associated with HIV/ AIDS cases. Project Manager of Comforting Hearts Michael Hemerding told Stabroek News that its objective is to comfort, counsel, care and support persons infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Towards this end the organisation intends to promote programmes to educate target groups in Region Five (Mahaica/West Berbice) and Region Six (East Berbice/ Corentyne).

Hemerding said that the project gets funding from USAID and UNICEF and it is also given grants by the Carter Centre in Georgetown. The organisation was established in December 1998 and offers free pre-and-post-test counselling, tests, care, support and education to HIV/AIDS infected persons of all ages and races.

The response from intended beneficiaries so far has been excellent and some 150 teenagers have been counselled by the staff of Comforting Hearts.

Last year 18 persons were trained as counsellors and 25 persons as peer educators.

The organisation opens its doors from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Mondays to Fridays, and also has special weekend activities and programmes

At weekend the organisation hosts street theatre, lectures, fun days featuring sports, and distributes information-pamphlets and other educational material to sensitise the public about HIV/AIDS.

This year Comforting Hearts plans to have blood tests done in New Amster-dam. At present the organisation sends blood samples to the Georgetown Public Hospi-tal Corporation to be tested but it takes some time to get the results back. Hemerding noted that many individuals are so anxious for the test results that they do not appreciate the long wait and often fail to return. Comforting Hearts also promotes its educational programmes through lectures at schools and various organisations. The NGO also distributes condoms which it receives from the Ministry of Health.

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