Minister calls for lifestyle changes to halt AIDS spread
March 22, 2004
MINISTER of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, is calling on Churches and faith-based organizations (FBOs) around Guyana to play a more active role in mobilizing their memberships to "take responsibility for promoting lifestyles against HIV/AIDS."
Dr. Ramsammy was speaking at the launching of the Health Ministry's HIV/AIDS Prevention Campaign: "Me To You: Reach One - Save One" at the National Cultural Centre.
Stressing the importance of collectively waging the war against HIV/AIDS, the minister urged the gathering Wednesday to allow nothing to interfere with the need for all Guyanese to work together in this common fight.
He exhorted each to endeavour to take personal responsibility - not only for their own positive actions to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS, but also to ensure that their families, friends, and organizations remain committed to an aggressive fight against the scourge.
Minister Ramsammy acknowledged the contributions of the many non-governmental organizations and the rest of civil society to continue playing their part in HIV/AIDS prevention. He, however, noted that while there are some Churches doing very well in this regard, far too many need to pull their weight.
Said Dr. Ramsammy: "My brothers and sisters, I do not believe that the Church as a whole has done all it could to mobilize their enormous followings and to take responsibility to promote lifestyle changes against HIV/AIDS."
He said that while there are some who have done enormous and fantastic jobs, there are many others who are lacking. The minister is hopeful that this situation would change.
The minister has described HIV/AIDS as a debilitating and horrific scourge of our time. He spoke amid the publication of still grim statistics: that more than 40 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS today, almost 27 million persons have already died from HIV/AIDS, and almost 15 million children around the world have orphaned by the death of their parents through the killer disease.
It is estimated that in another six years Guyana will have some 23,000 orphans, 40 per cent of that figure resulting from HIV/AIDS deaths.
In the wake of this pandemic, Dr. Ramsammy said countries, communities, families and more than 42 million people live in daily torment of loneliness, despair, fear, rage, bewilderment and loss.
"Our obligation as a nation, as citizens, and as just plain human beings, is not only to educate every Guyanese to educate each other, but also to promote personal responsibility in the fight against HIV/AIDS," he added.
The objective of the 'Me To You Campaign', launched two weeks ago, is to ensure that Guyanese are aware of the essence of adopting safe lifestyles and therefore prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and stop the stigmatization of and discrimination against people infected by the virus.