Religious leaders can mobilise against HIV/AIDS
- Ramsammy
Stabroek News
March 16, 2004

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From right in front row: Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy; First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo; wife of the US ambassador Hilda Cox-Bullen; US Ambassador to Guyana Roland Bullen; Public Service Minister Dr Jennifer Westford; Human Service Minister Bibi Shadi

The national fight against HIV/AIDS requires more support from the religious community through the mobilisation of their large congregations.

So said Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy yesterday when the ministry launched its, 'Me to You: Reach One - Save One HIV/AIDS pledge campaign' at the National Cultural Centre (NCC).

This initiative targets individuals or organisations who are asked to make a pledge to take immediate action to prevent the spread of HIV and to respect persons living with HIV and AIDS. The promotion involves people talking to each other about the various ways to approach preventing the continued spread of the disease including abstinence, use of a condom and sticking to one partner. The goal is to get 100,000 signatures.

The promotion is said to have been an idea Ramsammy got while discussing the pandemic with children last year.

Ramsammy said he would like to commend the church leaders who are involved in the fight. But he does not think the church has done enough to mobilise their congregations. "We are in great need of moral support."

He singled out the Guyana Council of Churches and the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG) for their role in fighting the epidemic. CIOG has committed to work in every masjid to prevent transmission of the disease.

"Though sometimes we start with variable results similar initiatives seem to degenerate into a state of stupor, while we rest on our laurels," he stated, "but we should not allow passivity to hinder Guyanese from putting up a fight. We cannot rest, since HIV/AIDS is always lurking."

Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry Sonia Roopnauth said that Popula-tion Services International (PSI) was one of the organisations targeted to help put together the campaign having had experience in such countries as Burkina-Faso.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Ganga Persaud stated the ministry is looking at the implementation of a life skills curriculum for primary schools and from Forms one to three in secondary schools from September this year with the support of UNICEF and Caricom.

The NCC programme was chaired by Chief Medical Officer Dr Rudolph Cummings and included the Reach One - Save One campaign jingle performed by Courtney 'Arrowhead' Noel.