Civil society input imperative in HIV/AIDS fight
—UNAIDS Coordinator
Kaieteur News
December 16, 2006

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With the aim of soliciting the input of civil society in the local fight against HIV/AIDS, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) held a national consensus meeting at Cara Lodge yesterday.

The meeting was intended to set targets towards universal access for HIV/AIDS prevention treatment as well as care and support in Guyana .

Speaking at the opening of the meeting, UNAIDS Country Coordinator Dr Reuben del Prado said that Guyana is among the few countries which have streamlined innovation measures to combat the virus.

Dr del Prado emphasised that while this year accounts for an increase in the infection rates globally, Guyana has remained ahead in its fight. He points out that Guyana is the only country in the Caribbean , along with two other countries, which facilitates Rapid Testing.

As such, Dr del Prado said UNAIDS is committed to supporting Guyana 's response which is probably among the best in the world.

But in order for efforts to be truly successful, the UNAIDS Coordinator said the need for collaboration with stakeholders is imperative. He stressed that the support of civil society is important and necessary.

It is for this cause that the Health Ministry has been endeavouring to have every citizen educated about HIV/AIDS, Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy stated.

Dr Ramsammy envisages a time when Guyanese will not only know their status but will also know how to protect themselves and be able to utilise tools to stop the transmission of HIV/AIDS.

And while a legislation to stamp out the stigma and discrimination associated with the disease is in the making, Ramsammy said no mother should deliver a child without knowing her status and no baby should be born with the virus due to failure to treat.

The Minister moots that while preventative talks are often echoed in consensus, they are not always reciprocated with actions.

As such, Dr Ramsammy says “It is time for delivery.” He urged the gathering at the meeting yesterday to have consensus to implement necessary approaches to rid the disease.

According to the Health Minister, there are many approaches which can be implemented but no one approach can be effective.

He stressed that while abstinence is an important approach to promote, it is an integral part of the strategy to fight the disease.

Other approaches such as Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) and condom use are included in the strategy to encourage HIV/AIDS prevention, Dr Ramsammy said.

He further notes that there must be a clear definition of the minimum condition of testing so as not to create additional barriers to the prevention process.

Programmes to protect vulnerable groups such as orphans and vulnerable children, women and young girls are also imperative, he said.

Ramsammy notes that efforts must be made to ensure that people have early diagnosis and are introduced to anti-retroviral treatment as early as possible.