Guyana/US anti-HIV/AIDS programme launched
By Jaime Hall
Guyana Chronicle
January 30, 2004

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Minister of Health (Ag) Dr. Jennifer Westford says she is encouraged by yesterday's official launching of the USAID Family Health International/Guyana HIV/AIDS Programme office here.

She says it marks another commitment by the United States Government in the partnership to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The office is located on the third floor of Demerara Distillers Limited building, 44 High Street, Kingston.

Family Health International (FHI), a large research, education and service organization with more than 700 employees in more than 60 countries, will focus much of its work on reproductive health, research and HIV/AIDS.

Here in Guyana the organization will help to strengthen the capacity to deliver services, conduct research and provide strategic information dissemination and to monitor and evaluate its work.

FHI, funded by USAID, is meant to provide support efforts by the Government of Guyana to prevent infection, to treat those who are infected, and to reduce stigma and discrimination, thus ultimately helping to reduce the impact of the epidemic.

Dr. Westford said at the launching yesterday that government recognizes that HIV and AIDS have evolved over the past two decades from being a mere serious public health threat into a critical developmental issue as outlined in the government's prepared Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).

She said that in 2003 the Ministry of Health ensured that anti-retroviral drugs were produced locally in order to reduce the cost of treating infected patients. This was followed by a programme launched on the of HIV mother-to-child transmission prevention.

More recently a decision was taken by Cabinet to have a Presidential Panel on HIV and AIDS. This will be activated shortly to complement efforts to combat the epidemic.
In Guyana five hospitals account for some 80 per cent of all the babies delivered, she pointed out.

It is hoped that the provision of this service will allow these health institutions to offer care to all women in Guyana delivering babies.