GPHC acquires machines to monitor HIV/AIDS patients - monitoring will be provided free

Kaieteur News

June 10, 2004

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Guyana has moved closer in its battle against the HIV/AIDS disease with the acquisition of two CD4 FACS count machines.

The Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy commissioned the equipment, yesterday.

At the launching ceremony held at Le Meridian, Pegasus, the Minister described the occasion as a historic one, which brings Guyana closer to having a comprehensive response to the deadly epidemic.

The CD4 machines were acquired through United States President George Bush’s AIDS initiative launched last year and facilitated through the Centres for Disease Control- Guyana in collaboration with the Health Ministry and the Francois Xavier -Bagnoud Centre at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Bush’s emergency plan for AIDS relief pledged some $5 billion to assist the 14 countries most affected by AIDS.

Two Caribbean countries benefited and Guyana is one.

The new machines will enable CD 4 testing for AIDS patients for the first time in the history of Guyana’s public health care system.

CD4 testing is used to monitor and provide reliable information on the immunological status of HIV- infected patients. With CD4 testing, HIV-infected persons can be monitored and cared for using state-of-the-art measures, which provide a more comprehensive and accurate view of HIV progression.

Among other functions, the CD4 machines can be used for initiating anti-retroviral treatment in the HIV infected client and offering clinical monitoring and follow up treatment of asymptomatic patients. The equipment also manages HIV/TB co- infection and can make a diagnosis from HIV to AIDS.

Before the advent of these two machines, two private institutions offered these services to HIV infected patients at the cost of approximately $12,000.

This service, which will be available at public health institutions, will be free of cost.

Representatives of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Centre (FXBC) and Health Minister Ramsammy held a press conference prior to the launching ceremony.

Associate Dean for community programmes, Dr Mary Boland noted that it is hoped that the new equipment will encourage persons to get tested.

“They now know that after being tested, the facilities are in place to monitor their immune system and to work with them so that they can remain healthy longer,” she said.

Dr Chuka Anude informed that the FXBC centre aims over the next two years, to collaborate with other agencies involved in the fight against AIDS to further prevent HIV infection locally and improve treatment and support of persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Head of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat, (NAPS), Dr Morris Edwards in addressing the gathering at the launching ceremony noted that the acquisition of the machines is a major boost to Guyana’s response towards fighting the disease.

He said that in recent years, the epidemic has taken a toll on the country since there are an estimated 20,000 people living with AIDS.

He recalled that the respective governments of 189 countries- including Guyana committed themselves at a UN convention in 2001 to working assiduously to fight the disease in various ways, including the provision of anti-retroviral drugs.

Edwards said, in this regard, Guyana has made a tremendous effort. He noted that in the same year, a seminar aimed at capacity building was held with in excess of 30 doctors and pharmacy representatives.

A similar two-day workshop was held in 2002, and last year more than 10 doctors, 20 pharmacists and 22 nurses participated in a seminar aimed at improving Guyana’s response to the disease.

He noted that the availability of anti-retroviral has been expanded to Regions 2,3,6 and 10 and at the moment approximately 350 patients are being treated with anti-retroviral.

Edwards explained that in the absence of laboratory technology to determine at what stage treatment for infected persons should begin, health professionals previously took their cue from when a patient became symptomatic.

“We waited until a patient exhibited one or more of the opportunistic infections associated with the disease before administering the anti-retroviral.”

The Head of NAPS informed that of the two machines used world wide to access the status of HIV infected patients, the CD4 machine is the more critical.

”The other one is the viral load machine and both are important to have. But if you can only afford one, the more critical would be the CD4 according to worldwide standards.”

Health Minster Dr Leslie Ramsammy said the occasion represents a milestone in Guyana’s fight for life.

“The acquisition of the CD4 machines is a small victory for all those who worked tirelessly over the years and all Guyanese should feel proud.”

Dr. Ramsammy noted that Guyana has come a long way in a short time in their response to the pandemic and has become a role model in the Caribbean for the disease.

“We have come a long way, only a few years ago our response was based mainly on education and awareness, and our treatment and care was very marginal. Today, anti-retroviral is offered in Regions 2,3,4, 6 and 10 and we are still working to expand to other regions”

He said that while the new machine will be placed mainly at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, other public health facilities would be able to access the services.

Minister Ramsammy stressed that just as with the anti-retroviral, strict protocols will have to be adhered to in the use of the machines.

“As with the anti-retroviral, no one who needs treatment will be deprived, but strict protocol will be in place.

It is not necessary for someone to test everyday although some people will want to do that because of anxiety to continuously be updated with their status, but our obligations will be guided by protocol.”

He reiterated his call for everyone to work together in the fight against the deadly pandemic.

Dinene Barrow, a representative from G-Plus, an organisation that provides counselling and care for persons living with HIV/AIDS, expressed gratitude on behalf of PLWHA, describing it as a timely gesture.

She said that in the past, HIV infected persons have found difficulty accessing accurate testing facilities and as a result many have died.

Also present at the launching, yesterday, were representatives from the GPHC, private hospitals, various health organisations and agencies involved in the battle against the pandemic.