Govt., NGOs lauded for HIV/AIDS initiatives By Shirwin Campbell
Guyana Chronicle
May 25, 2004

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U.S. Ambassador to Guyana Mr. Roland Bullen has lauded the Government of Guyana (GOG) for successfully implementing a strong pilot programme.

Ambassador Bullen spoke at the official launching of the Prevent Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programme yesterday at the Umana Yana, High Street, Kingston.

The event, which was hosted by the stakeholders of the project – United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Family Health International (FHI), Guyana HIV/AIDS Programme and the Ministry of Health – also officially recognized and honoured eight non governmental organizations (NGOs) and presented them with certificates of collaboration for their involvement in the programme.

Commending the GOG and all stakeholders for excellent work to date in implementing the programme which was launched Nov 2001, the Ambassador noted that the overall goal of the U.S. Government support to Guyana’s PMTCT strategy is to reduce the current rate of mother to child transmission of HIV by 50%, by 2008.

On the path to meeting the goal the Ministry of Health together with other partners has already achieved key interim targets, he added, pointing out that to date over 2300 women have been offered services at 20 sites; approximately 100 health workers are trained and 30 babies of HIV positive women have received treatment.

The newest component of this initiative is the launching of the Programme Support Materials which aims at changing social and individual behaviour with specific messages and different communication approaches, he added.

The U.S. Ambassador in his presentation noted that HIVAIDS is one of the most challenging barriers to development today and it has rapidly transformed itself to a serious public health issue to an overwhelming issue.

HIVAIDS has deepened poverty, reduced life expectancy and threatens to leave a generation without mother guidance and the support of parents and one disturbing aspect is the number of infants who become HIV positive through maternal transmission.

I am however pleased to say that there is a reason to hope, he added.

“Guyana is one of fourteen countries, benefiting from President Bush’s International Mother and Child HIV prevention Initiative that was launched in September 2003” he announced.

This US$3.4M programme caters for access to HIV AIDS counselling and testing services and if tested positive the provision of drugs to prevent new born infections.

The programme also provided stronger health care systems to reach as many women as possible he noted.

Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy who also spoke at the event noted that today, one third of pregnant women in our country has access to PMTCT.

Sites providing PMTCT Services are in Region 3: Vreed-en-hoop West Demerara Regional Hospital.

Region 4: Health Centres at David Rose; Campbelville; Festival City; Dorothy Bailey; Kitty; Beterverwagting; Hospitals ; St. Joseph Mercy and Georgetown Public Hospital and Antenatal Clinic.

Region 6: Health Centres at Crabwood Creek; #64 Village; Bushlot; Williamsburg; Cumberland; Fyrish; Skeldon Hospital in Skeldon and New Amsterdam.

Region 10: Health centres at One Mile and Vivienne Parris and Upper Demerara and Mc Kenzie Hospitals.

The eight NGOs that received certificates of collaboration were Hope For All (Suddie Essequibo); Youth Challenge Guyana (Georgetown); Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (Georgetown); Comforting Hearts (New Amsterdam Berbice); Roadside Baptist Church (#68 Village Corentyne); Hope Foundation (Bartica); Linden Care Foundation (Wismar Linden)

Mission Director of the USAID / Guyana Mike Sarhan noted that Guyana is the second Caribbean country to be selected for this programme and the other is Haiti, all the other countries are from Africa.

Senior Vice President of FHI Ms. Shelia Mitchell, explained that FHI is here with the support and working on behalf of the US Government to help the Government of Guyana, prevent HIV, to care for those that are affected and mitigate the impact on those infected.

Country Director of FHI Kwame Asiedu while delivering some brief remarks said that the materials are to ensure that health workers have adequate information for patients they serve and the product is the end result of weeks of hard work involving numerous stake holders at the regional, national and international level.

FHI has been in Guyana since 2000 upon request of USAID to provide technical and programmatic assistance with a special Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) intervention focus to the nine NGOs that make up the Guyana HIV/AIDS/STI Youth project which was established to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections among at-risk Guyanese youth.