Guyana begins receiving $3.4M for HIV/AIDS fight By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
July 24, 2003

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Guyana has already begun receiving monies from a tranche earmarked for this country from the Bush Administration’s $15 Billion Emergency Relief Fund to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.

Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, who confirmed this yesterday, said that the US$3.4 M for Guyana represents but the first disbursement, and is to be spent on the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of the virus.

Noting that monies have already begun to be ‘filtered down here’ from the tranche, the deeply appreciative Health Minister said that the funds given Guyana will enhance considerably, the Ministry’s Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission Programme already in place.

Work is continuing apace, the Minister said, adding that his Ministry is preparing to launch the national Post Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme within a few weeks.

The launch will see the commissioning of some 32 PMTCT centers throughout Guyana. At the moment there are 8 such (pilot) centers in Regions Four and Six, work is being done to another 24 such centers established nationwide. Dr. Ramsammy said that persons are currently being trained, with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Centre for Diseases Control here.

And unveiling “ambitious” plans for the development of additional facilities to boost Guyana’s fight against HIV/AIDS, the Minister told of the imminent setting up of a National Public Health Laboratory in the Georgetown Hospital Compound. This facility, with funding from both the US-HIV/AIDS initiative and equipment and other protocols from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), is expected to come on stream before the end of the year.

Such a facility will be used to conduct tests, which determine whether the person is HIV positive; doing CD-4 tests (monitoring the viral load) to determine how the person’s immune system is doing, among others.

Another remarkable feature the Minister pointed out, will be that, using the facility, it could be determined within days - whether the newborn has contracted HIV from its mother.

In the absence of this technology, it takes as long as 18 months before it can be determined whether the newborn has the virus. Until now, such samples are being sent to the Centre for Diseases Control in the United States.

Dr. Ramsammy is optimistic that the National HIV/AIDS Laboratory, when completed, will be one of the best in this hemisphere, and would be able to make its services available to other countries.

Expressing optimism that the funds received from the Bush Administration to fight HIV/AIDS will enhance considerably, the Ministry’s PMTCT, Dr. Ramsammy asserted, “What we are trying to develop here is a Centre of Excellence.”

Ramsammy who was among Health ministers meeting with United States Secterary of Health, Tommy Thompson, in Geneva, Switzerland, following President Bush’s signing for the release of the funds, said that as advised by the Secretary of Health, the initial disbursements are to be spent on reducing MTCT of the virus.

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