US gives further $21M for AIDS fight
- home-based care among initiatives
Stabroek News
July 27, 2004

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Easy as ABC: Minister of Finance, Saisnarine Kowlessar (right) and US Ambassador to Guyana, Roland Bullen shake hands after signing a US$21M agreement to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS. Also in photograph are USAID Mission Director, Dr Mike Sarhan (s

Guyana has benefited from a further US$21M under President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar), which will be used to reduce the transmission of HIV and mitigate the impact of the disease.

Minister of Finance, Saisnarine Kowlessar, US Ambassador to Guyana, Roland Bullen and Mission Director at the US Embassy, Dr Mike Sarhan, yesterday signed an agreement in the boardroom of the Ministry of Finance. Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy was also at the signing ceremony.

The money will be used through a collaborative agreement between the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Guyana. This partnership will be working towards intensifying the ABC (Abstinence, Be Faithful, use Condoms) programme and expansion of the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme to five labour and delivery sites.

It will also see the provision of home-based care for those infected; support for orphans and vulnerable children; expansion and encouragement of the use of voluntary counselling and testing services; and conducting of research to determine best practices in all aspects of HIV/AIDS programming.

According to Sarhan, in order to adequately address the epidemic in Guyana USAID worked with the government, major non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to design a new project entitled Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention (GHARP), which seeks to reduce the transmission of HIV and mitigate the impact of AIDS.

GHARP activities, he said, would focus on improving policy co-ordination and management, reducing transmission of HIV, increasing the use of prevention and treatment services, and increasing the use of community-based care and support services.

He added that they recognise that people living with HIV and AIDS have enormous psycho-social needs, and that they and their families have welfare needs, such as economic and nutritional support and legal advice. Sarhan said USAID would support increased use of community-based care and support services and would include interventions to achieve a greater capacity for a comprehensive, community-based response to the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS, and those of orphans and vulnerable children.

Bullen in his remarks said the US government is now mounting a greater response to AIDS adding that as a focus country, Guyana would benefit from additional funding to rapidly expand the response. "The US government will provide needed support to prevent new infections, treat HIV infected people and care for HIV positive individuals and orphans."

He said in Guyana it is estimated that approximately 18,000 persons are living with the virus and this number is alarming given Guyana's relatively small population.

Bullen pointed out that the virus leaves a generation of children to face the catastrophic social, economic and psychological consequences of seeing their parents, community members and leaders succumb to a preventable disease. "These children are left as caregivers for their younger siblings, and, the extended family has the responsibility of raising children very often without adequate financial resources."

Meanwhile, Sarhan said the US's partnership with Guyana in the fight is not only limited to USAID, but it also includes other programmes implemented by other US agencies in Guyana such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Peace Corps and the military.