Funds for Bush HIV/AIDS proposal could be allocated later in year
-says Ambassador unveiling embassy workplace policy
April 16, 2003
The US$15B proposal to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean as requested by President George Bush in his State of the Union address, is now working its way through the appropriations process in the US Congress and allocations are expected in the second half of the year.
This was disclosed by US Ambassador to Guyana, Ronald Godard on Friday at the US Embassy during the public launching of the embassy’s policy on HIV/AIDS in the workplace.
Guyana is one of the fourteen countries listed to benefit from the proposal, with Haiti being the only other Caribbean country.
Two US senators, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island had visited both countries in February on a fact-finding mission and they are expected to play a vital role in getting the allocations passed.
In relation to the recently launched policy, Ambassador Godard noted that the embassy had a small number of US citizen employees but there were around ninety Guyanese employees and the embassy had a commitment to all of them.
He said the embassy was trying to “do away with the stigma that is attached to HIV/AIDS within the [US] mission here.”
Godard said the embassy had used the document to initiate dialogue with other diplomatic missions and the Ministries of Health and Labour.
The policy was established by the embassy in response to the severity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the scope of its impact in the Caribbean. The policy contains general principles regarding the treatment of employees with the virus and promotes HIV/AIDS awareness, education, and prevention among mission employees and their families.
The policy is based, in part, upon the HIV/AIDS guidance issued by the US Department of State’s Office of Medical Services.
“In light of the severity of the epidemic and the scope of its impact in the Caribbean, the US Mission in Georgetown has a compelling need to establish this [policy]...”
The policy explains what the virus is and outlines a number of general principles including that the mission would not discriminate against employees on the basis that they actually have or are perceived as having HIV/AIDS.
Also the mission will base its employment practices on the scientific and epidemiological evidence that people with AIDS or HIV infection do not pose a risk of transmitting the virus to co-workers through ordinary workplace contact.
And in another section the policy said that in general, mission employees are under no obligation to disclose their HIV/AIDS status unless it is necessary to obtain benefits, to request modification of job accommodations, to meet the suitability requirements of a specific job or job series, or to obtain a medical or security clearance, or unless emergency or unforeseen circumstances necessitate such disclosure.
The policy also states that the mission will provide HIV/AIDS education, including education on the workplace policy, to employees and their families and will promote HIV/AIDS prevention.
The mission will also follow appropriate occupational safety procedures and provide training for employees who work in settings where there is a higher risk of HIV exposures (e.g. medical unit employees who work with blood and other bodily fluids).
At the US embassy five agencies are represented and they are all involved in the fight against HIV, being the State Department, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the US Peace Corps and the Department of Defence. All of these agencies meet once every two weeks where the meeting is presided over by the ambassador and they review what has been done and what their plans are.
The ambassador said that it was during the historic meeting in Guyana last April between CARICOM and the US on HIV/AIDS, where the US Secretary of Health, Tommy Thompson was present that the Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS was launched.
He said that funding for the USAID programme in Guyana is likely to be tripled from the $1.5M being currently spent.
Further, the US embassy has a small fund, which has about US$20,000, and the ambassador will award grants for community-based initiatives on HIV/AIDS-related issues that promote the UNAIDS theme for 2003, `Live and Let Live’. (Samantha Alleyne)