Population Services International celebrates one year in Guyana –
country could still nip spread of HIV/AIDS in the bud – Dr. Sarhan
Kaieteur News
July 31, 2004

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USAID Mission Director Dr. Mike Sarhan said Guyana is still at a stage where it could nip the spread of HIV/AIDS in the bud with the multi-faceted programme that is being implemented to include prevention, treatment and care over the next five years.

Dr. Sarhan was speaking at the commemoration of Population Services International’s (PSI) first year in Guyana, yesterday, at its Queenstown offices where the organisation came in for high praise for its work on HIV/AIDS in the country.

Dr. Mike Sarhan said the impact of the work of USAID’s implementing partner, PSI, is already being felt.

He stated that the partnership has developed into something better than what was expected.

Further, he described HIV/AIDS as a cross-cutting issue which besides health, impacts on the development, political and social stability of a country. It is for these reasons, he said, that US President George Bush initiated the HIV/AIDS relief programme for several countries. Guyana and Haiti, are two regional states out of 15 countries worldwide that are receiving funding from the US to battle the disease.

Country Director of PSI, Pamela Faura, told the gathering that Guyana is working to create models which will be used as examples for the rest of the region to use in their HIV/AIDS work.

Faura lauded the collaboration which existed among PSI, its implementing Non-Government Organisations and the Guyana government in the fight against the deadly virus.

“It is a truly positive experience. I have never before seen such collaboration in a country among the various stakeholders,” she said.

Among the achievements listed by Faura was the Peer Education Promoter (PEP) programme.

She said the programme involves 21 participants who travel around the country staging shows as a medium to promote the HIV/AIDS message.

Some 1,000 shows have been held so far. The PEPs also work with youth clubs.

Faura said PSI has also designed and implemented the Me to You, Reach One Save One programme.

The programme has already garnered 137 pledges and over 18,000 signatures.

The goal is to get 100,000 signatures by the end of this year.

One commercial has been produced for this programme and a pledge-a-thon was held last week. Faura said a massive thermometer has been designed to display the level of signatures received.

The thermometer will be placed in a conspicuous spot so that it could be easily noticed.

The Country Director said PSI has embarked upon a Voluntary Counselling and Testing programme in partnership with the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, Lifeline Counselling Services, Linden Care Foundation, and St Francis Community Development.

Forty counsellors have been trained for rapid testing.

There is also the Abstinence Be Faithful campaign which uses the media to get out the message.

In this programme, the Vive brand of condoms is being distributed from 250 outlets situated in the high risk areas. Faura stated that though PSI is involved in much work to bring the spread of HIV/AIDS under control, it is still not enough. She pledged to continue to work towards achieving the goals. US Ambassador to Guyana, Roland Bullen, stated that the synergy developed among the partners in the fight to bring focus on HIV/AIDS is unsurpassed.

In congratulating PSI on its social marketing programme, the ambassador noted that there have been many studies done in the past which end up on a shelf somewhere and became useless. This did not happen in this case, he said, adding that the programme is getting the job done.

Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, attributed part of the success of Guyana’s HIV/AIDS programme to the excellent partnership among the local and foreign representation.

But he, too, warned that the stakeholders cannot afford to sit on their laurels.

“We have to do more to win the battle,” he said. “We just simply cannot be satisfied with what we are doing. We have to raise the bar.”