GRPA –offering that helping hand

Kaieteur News
November 14, 2006

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The Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association is celebrating its 33 rd anniversary. That organisation moved from a small bottom house operation to an organisation that is seeking to provide for the health of a wide cross-section of the society.

Recently, the organisation expanded its operation at its Quamina Street headquarters to provide a service for a number of women's health problems, not least among them testing for cervical and breast cancers. It is also focusing on the HIV/AIDS care and on the other sexually transmitted diseases.

The presence of GRPA is more than welcome at a time when, despite the stigma attached to certain diseases, people still continue with risky sexual behaviour. It provides counselling, but more often than not, those who seek counselling are people who got caught up in the risky behaviour in one form or another, and became affected by, or infected with, one or more of the diseases.

But the GRPA is more than about diseases. It is about teenage pregnancy and about educating the less fortunate who can ill-afford to take the necessary precautions against the life-threatening ailments and the unwanted pregnancies.

What makes the job of the GRPA more difficult is the fact that Guyana is a poor country; and in poor countries, the spread of the life-threatening diseases is more prevalent. In the first instance, people cannot afford to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves.

Secondly, they often fall prey to the person who comes with a proposal to take them out of their poverty. The most vulnerable here are the young women, most of whom are of school age. These women have needs like any other person, but their poverty does not allow them to satisfy most of these needs, and it is here that they become vulnerable.

Yesterday, the GRPA staged an open house to demonstrate some of the services it is capable of offering to the wider society. It offered oral contraceptives, prophylactics, and demonstrations of the uses of these products.

From a service that was merely a forum for counselling, it now offers a full-fledged medical programme. There is a doctor on staff, as well as other health officials. The doctor would, more often than not, diagnose the ailments, and the GRPA, where ever possible, would provide the necessary medical attention.

One of the most sought after services is the blood test. Many people shy away from testing because they languish in the belief that what they do not know cannot hurt them. Some are afraid to confront their ailment; and indeed, many people, when presented with their HIV status, simply died soon after.

But for all its programmes, the GRPA cannot always offer the kind of support needed by those who seek its services. Hunger is one of the major deterrents to the use of the anti-retrovirals. To take the ARVs on an empty stomach is to put the body through more punishment than it is designed to bear. Many people simply forego the treatment and succumb faster than their counterparts.

The GRPA, for all it is worth, cannot provide for the hungry. It is a service organisation rather than a social organisation. It helps the ill and the diseased, rather than the less fortunate.

There is one unfortunate aspect of this organisation. Although its doors are open to the young, most young people simply walk by. There are those who provide a service to those who come by, serving as volunteers, and they are young. They are the ones best able to relate to the young, but most of the young simply do not respond to the open door policy of the GRPA.

Perhaps schools should promote the GRPA. Parents and guardians were resolutely opposed to the schools teaching sex education, although more than 60 per cent of children of school age are sexually active. So, recognising their forced shortcomings, the schools should do all in their power to direct the young in their care to professional advice.

They should recognise that already this country is on the verge of losing a significant section of its young population either to migration or to the plagues that ride on irresponsible sexual behaviour.