Guyana making history with HIV/AIDS approaches
- UN Coordinator
`In this small nation, we are writing history’
-- Dr. Ruben del Prado By Shawnel Cudjoe
Guyana Chronicle
December 16, 2006

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UNAIDS Country Coordinator in Guyana, Dr. Ruben del Prado has called for more coordination on the National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS.

The delegate told stakeholders at a national consensus meeting yesterday that the present situation is “chaotic” but pointed out that Guyana is one of the countries ahead in its response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic with innovative approaches.

He said this is evident in the mass communication drives and activities like a national day for voluntary testing and counselling.

“In this small nation, we are writing history,” del Prado declared.

He encouraged information sharing, mutual accountability and quality control measures and said attention has to be diverted from the Ministry of Health because HIV/AIDS related problems are in all sections of society.

The forum, at Cara Lodge in Quamina Street, Georgetown, was to set targets towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and del Prado said the programmes need to be aligned amongst various organisations.

But he added that, as all aspects of the process are relevant and important, persons must be held mutually accountable for the finance they are given to execute HIV/AIDS projects.

del Prado advocated that “full and predictable” finances be allocated to HIV/AIDS schemes and not only small grants from various agencies.

According to him, the Guyana plan should be sustainable and relevant stakeholders need to sit down and seriously consider and implement recommendations to deal with the driving forces behind the disease.

He said issues such as gender inequality, stigma and discrimination have to be examined and practical solutions derived.

He said the country’s implementation procedure needs to be developed and practical targets set.

del Prado exhorted persons from other ministries to come on board and pay attention to the matter, arguing that, until people living with the disease can walk the streets without being stigmatised and discriminated against, an exceptional approach to dealing with it is still needed.

Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said stakeholders have already agreed on issues, including the need for persons to be educated about the pandemic, how to protect themselves and have access to testing, counselling and treatment care.

He said there is also agreement on the necessity for legislation against stigma and discrimination and to empower persons living with the sickness.

However, consensus on the strategies required is not there.

“We talk too much, we don’t reciprocate with our actions, it is time to deliver,” Ramsammy admitted.

According to him, all aspects of the programme, among them preventative as well as treatment and care measures, should be examined as one does not work without the other.

Ramsammy said issues such as the delay of persons’ sexual debut, working with commercial sex workers and men having sex with men as well as making it easy for persons to access treatment should be discussed.

He said orphans and vulnerable children constitute another issue which must be addressed and observed that the human resource challenges must be recognised within that context.