Five more groups get grants under Ambassador’s Fund for HIV/AIDS
Education key element in fight - US Ambassador
Stabroek News
October 19, 2003

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United States Ambassador Roland Bullen last Friday presented cheques to five more local oganizations as support for small-scale community projects in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

During the presentation ceremony at the National Library, the US Ambassador to Guyana noted that “education is a key element in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

Under the 2003 Ambassador’s Fund for HIV/AIDS programme, cheques for grant-awards were handed over by the Ambassador to Dec.Com, the Guyanese Youth Network+; the Pakuri Youth Development Organisation; the Theatre Guild Ltd.; and the Wesleyan Church of Vreed-en-Hoop.

He noted that Guyana is one of the countries most affected by the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, whose spread here threatens to undermine years of efforts to develop the economy and improve the lives of citizens. However, the Ambassador declared: “Despite the serious nature of the problem, there is hope.”

Pointing to recent developments which give hope, Bullen referred to the launching of the nationwide Prevention of Mother-to- Child Transmission programme, which is supported by funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He noted also the major effort to counteract stigma in the “Words Have Power” campaign, which is also supported by USAID.

Moreover, he announced that in coming months there will be more programmes launched and more money committed as the United States, through USAID and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, works in support of the efforts of the Ministry of Health to turn the tide on HIV/AIDS in Guyana.

The Ambassador has already presented cheques to four organisations in Georgetown and in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne), that are actively pursuing small-scale community projects in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Meanwhile, the Theatre Guild has proposed a novel approach to use theatre to carry the HIV/AIDS awareness message, and the Ambassador’s Fund will be supporting the project.

The Theatre Guild will be producing two one-act plays written by Tony Award-winning, New York-based playwright, Mario Fratti. These productions, Bullen said, will raise awareness about HIV/AIDS for a wide audience through an accessible and enjoyable medium. The plays will educate about the need to adopt responsible and safe behaviours in a different way, one that may reach sections of the population that have overlooked or resisted other forms of education, the Ambassador observed.

He remarked further that an essential element in any education plan is finding effective ways to communicate the message, and it is important to utilise multiple means of communication to reach all sections of the community.

Dec.Com, one of the organisations receiving a grant -ward Friday, is working to support the targets set by the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) for reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and alleviating its impact. Its project, “Package of Love” seeks to provide a ‘package’ of services to three distinct groups: children orphaned by AIDS; people living with HIV/AIDS; and pregnant women.

The Guyanese Youth Network +, or GYN+, is a non-profit organisation that is active in Georgetown and is currently pushing its “Bridging the Gaps with Friendly Information, Part One” project. Part One of this project will design and develop a youth-friendly information kit, design and develop a computerised membership database, and disseminate information on HIV/AIDS to the community.

The Pakuri Youth Development Organisation which has been active in St. Cuthbert’s Mission since 1997 has a project titled “Live and Educate the Youths”. This project aims to teach personal hygiene and sex education to youths and adults in their community of over 1,500 people, through workshops, film shows, and the distribution of educational materials.

The importance of engaging the participation of local, grassroots level organisations in the campaign against HIV/AIDS cannot be underestimated, the Ambassador said.

He stated further that “it is at the local level where important education can happen, where attitudes can begin to change among family and neighbours and where the behaviour modification can begin to take place that is the all-important element in halting the spread of the terrible disease.”

And in West Demerara the Wesleyan Church at Vreed-en-Hoop is spearheading a “Choose Life Outreach” project which will identify persons suffering from the disease and offer them hope for life through education, counselling and love.

Together with the need to prevent the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Bullen noted, is the humanitarian necessity not to forget the victims of this disease. Ultimately, he contended, it is only when a community is able to care for the victims of the epidemic that it is ready to face up to the realities of the threat and take decisive action to combat it.

According to Bullen, the greatest enemy in the fight against HIV/AIDS is ignorance, and the frequent companions of ignorance are fear, stigma, and discrimination. He expressed the hope that with the programmes underway, “we can work to eliminate that ignorance and begin to win the fight against HIV/AIDS in Guyana.”