—anti-retroviral drug distribution a success story World AIDS Day preparations on stream

…Dr Ramsammy
Kaieteur News
November 30, 2006

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In preparation for World AIDS Day tomorrow, the Ministry of Health has planned a packed schedule of activities aimed at creating heightened awareness about the disease.

Under the theme, “Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise”, the programme includes the yearly concert “Flame and the Ribbon”, and the lighting of the symbolic red ribbon in the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) Compound.

At a media briefing yesterday, Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy said the Ministry is encouraging every citizen to participate in at least one of the activities.

“We are asking every Guyanese to wear a red ribbon or identify in some way and talk to someone about HIV/AIDS as part of the “Me-to-You” Campaign,” Dr Ramsammy said.

A concert is planned for the tarmac of the National Cultural Centre; while a cross-country ride by the Bikers Association, and three rallies in Region Six are also on the cards.

Panellists will listen to the concerns of viewers via a call-in programme on national television.

The Minister said each region will also host its own World AIDS Day activities, which will take various forms.

Infection rate

According to Dr Ramsammy, the percentage of pregnant women testing positive for HIV has been significantly reduced.

He said the antenatal surveillance report will be released on Monday.

Ramsammy said that results from the National Testing Day revealed a mere 1.1 percent rate of HIV infection among persons tested, adding to the 1.6 percent of persons for the year.


Regarding achievements over the years, the Minister said that, in 2001, no one had access to anti-retroviral treatment (ARV) or PMTCT's.

He stated that access globally is still under 10 percent, and as such, Guyana has performed incredibly well.

“The goal was to achieve universal access, which is 80 percent access by 2010; but for a country which started late, it is a remarkable success story,” Dr Ramsammy noted.

He added that Guyana does not have a drug waiting list, as in other countries, since there is enough of the drug in the system.

“As soon as we find someone who needs treatment, we can place them right away. We do not have a special quota of persons who receive the drug and another who have to wait,” the Minister said.

However, this is not without its challenges, since there are still people who come in for treatment too late.

Dr Ramsammy said that another challenge is keeping people on the medication, since Guyanese have a culture of discontinuing the medication when they begin to feel better.

He said the DOTS programme (a house-to-house initiative to ensure the drug is used) is not foolproof, since the issue of confidentiality arises.

However, the Minister said, he is certain that Guyana 's ability to surmount these challenges lies in the not-too-distant future.