Local HIV care must target gays, lesbians
• Canadian Field Officer
Kaieteur News
December 15, 2006

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In order to effectively prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, studies must be done on the wider socio-economic impact on society and urgent attention must be given to vulnerable groups like men having sex with men and women with women.

This is according to Local Field Officer of the Canadian Society for International Health (CSIH), Stephanie Brunet. Brunet was speaking at the presentation of results on a study of “Perceptions and Behaviour regarding HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care among Female Sex Workers (FSW) and Men who have Sex with Men (MSM)”.

The study was conducted by Suriname Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Consultant, Julia Terborg, and was a collaborative effort of PAHO, CSIH and the Ministry of Health.

Brunet said marginalising of vulnerable groups like FSW and MSM, because of the secret nature of their sexual lifestyles, poses a major risk to the prevention of the pandemic.

She noted that there is a zero percent prevalence of the disease in women who have sex with women and a 25 percent prevalence in men with men since most times men adopt a bisexual lifestyle.

PAHO/WHO Representative, Dr Kathleen Israel, who echoed Brunet's sentiments, said that stigma and discrimination levels in the Caribbean remain high.

She stated that the report must serve to promote attitudinal changes in Guyana 's orientation towards gays and lesbians.

According to Dr Israel , the health care system must adopt projects geared at allowing for efficient prevention, care and assistance of these vulnerable groups.

“This, however, must be a collaborative effort between government, the community, NGOs, and the individuals themselves,” Dr Israel said.

She noted that PAHO has already pledged its support, not only to Guyana but also to other countries in the Caribbean bent on ridding itself of the pandemic.

Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy said that each year has seen the prevalence rate reducing with each new study.

The Minister said there are many groups that are highly vulnerable in terms of HIV prevalence.

Dr Ramsammy said the issue demands urgent attention since a national risk presents itself with the existence of such vulnerable groups.

“We are working hard but we must go above and beyond what we are doing in order to accelerate this work,” the Minister stated.

He said the study is an encouraging trend that the government must build on as Guyana has designed interventions around data provided.

“We must make the best of our resources by gathering information. Some people say why waste money on research, just go right into the intervention, but research is important and is the best approach,” Dr Ramsammy remarked.

• He added that the Ministry is working to ensure all HIV-care units are user-friendly and the national objective of reducing HIV/AIDS by intensified efforts is realised.