New anti-HIV/AIDS initiative launched
--- disease is 'our common enemy'
Guyana Chronicle
February 27, 2004

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MINISTER of Labour, Human Services and Social Security Dr. Dale Bisnauth has issued a call for the nation to come together, close ranks and confront the HIV epidemic since the nation's very survival depends on it.

The Minister made the call yesterday at the launching of yet another initiative to further enhance the capacity and to strengthen the leadership role in the fight against the virus.

The Ministry of Labour Human Services and Social Security in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) yesterday launched a HIV/AIDS Workplace Programme at the Hotel Tower, Main Street.

The event which was well attended was the brainchild of the National Tripartite Committee.

"If ever there was an occasion for us to close ranks and confront a common enemy this is it," the Minister declared.

"Our very survival as a people and a nation may depend on our closing ranks, I wish to suggest that I am not exaggerating," he added.

While thanking the United States Department of Labour for financial assistance and good will gesture, he highlighted the work of the tripartite committee for the role they are also playing in the nation to highlight this issue.

He noted that it is common knowledge that Guyana has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the Caribbean and it has been estimated that 440 000 persons in the region are infected with HIV/AIDS.

He added that it is the second leading cause of death and in Guyana in 2000 HIV/AIDS accounted for 14,154 years of potential life lost.

United States Ambassador to Guyana Ronald Bullen, who also spoke at the function, commended the Ministry of Health, NGOs and other Agencies for their efforts but noted that they cannot do it alone.

He added that it is imperative that we focus on the workplace since examples from around the world reveal that HIV/AIDS will have a pervasive impact on growth, income and poverty in Guyana if we do not act now.

The Ambassador noted that a few businesses in Guyana have begun to recognize that there is a need for appropriate corporate policies on HIV/AIDS, and that workplaces can be effective focal points for prevention, education and reduction in stigma and discrimination.

"We however need all business on board," he added since the efforts of the business community alone are not enough to make prevention programmes effective.

Labour leadership and supportive governmental institutions are critical to reaching and protecting workers effectively, Mr. Bullen said.

He noted that this project will work with the Government, employers and workers' organizations to expand and strengthen their response.

He also pledged the support of the US Government and his personal commitment as Ambassador to continue to play an active role in providing leadership and coordination of the many efforts of the US Government in undertaking to support Guyana's response.

Sean Wilson, National Project Coordinator, who gave a brief overview of the project explained that it has a three-year duration funded by the United States Department of Labour to the International Labour Organization (ILO) to the tune of US$308,622.