HIV/AIDS treatment to spread to outlying regions
-fifteen doctors in training programme
By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
June 28, 2003

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It is anticipated that by the end of July four additional regions in Guyana will be providing standardized clinical management of persons living with HIV/AIDS, according to head of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), Dr Morris Edwards.

Doctors and nurses from Regions 2, 3, 6 and 10 were involved for three days last week in HIV training programmes facilitated by NAPS.

The anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS patients is currently being administered by the Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) Clinic.

Dr Edwards said that for the regions to commence treatment they would first have to come up to standard and that included having laboratory facilities to do the basic testing of patients.

The training programme for the fifteen doctors lasted for two days. It was conducted by two overseas-based Guyanese, Dr Moti Ramgopal from Florida and Dr Balkaran from Trinidad.

The training programme for the nurses and counsellors in the regions was facilitated by Dr Edwards.

Speaking at the opening of programme, Dr Edwards said that in March 2002 NAPS held its first two-day workshop on the clinical management of HIV/AIDS. Some twenty-eight participants were trained, including 12 doctors from the public and private sectors, medexes, social workers and nurses. “NAPS recognises that clinical management is team work and therefore required the training of these categories of health workers.”

He said that all of the regions were invited to send participants and even though most regions responded by sending medexes, only regions 4, 6 and 10 sent doctors.

The theme of the programme was `Providing hope through standardized and quality care’ and it includes an informational video, a brochure and even a jingle.

Speaking to Stabroek News, Dr Ramgopal, who runs an HIV clinic in Florida, said that about a month ago he had discussions with Dr Edwards about training programmes for physicians based in outlying areas.

He said that the two-day training programme entailed sharing his experience in Florida and Dr Balkaran’s experience in pediatric HIV treatment.

The doctor said he was involved in treating adult HIV patients and as such the training was to communicate to physicians what it took to set up a practice to treat patients.

He said now that the medication was available in Guyana he was working with the doctors on how to start treatment, providing information on possible side effects and arranging follow-up programmes.

Dr Ramgopal said that imparting his knowledge to the doctors was the first step in giving hope to HIV patients. “Patients must recognise that HIV disease is not the death sentence as before, but you can live for many years with good treatment and medication. And this is to let the physicians in the area know this as well... But now with the government pitching in and with Dr Edwards’ strong support, they are making very good progress.” The doctor has been treating HIV patients for the past ten years and has had a private practice for the past six.

And what motivated Dr Ramgopal to donate his time and expertise? “Just my compassion for HIV patients and my feeling that there is need here for the education to continue. Over the last two years I have seen a strong push in the area of HIV which is a significant problem in Guyana. And whatever way I could give my advice and support I will, and there is need for us to do it now; if we are not aggressive then we might be sorry in a few years.”

The doctor described the decentralisation of the treatment programmes as an excellent idea adding that he had seen other countries where the treatment had remained centralised preventing some from accessing treatment.

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