Consensus needed on some HIV/AIDS strategies— Dr. Ramsammy
Kaieteur News
December 19, 2006

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Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has stressed that if universal access for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is to be achieved rapidly, local consensus on approaches to AIDS must first be achieved.

Speaking to participants at a seminar aimed at addressing strategies on reaching consensus on universal access for HIV prevention, the Minister pointed out that this has already been reached on a number of ideas and policy directions.

However, while there have been agreements on goals, the country is still divided on approaches, the Minister said.

“I wish I can say that we have agreed on the way forward… that we have consensus on the approaches. But if we were to achieve these goals rapidly, we must strive to achieve consensus on the approaches.

“Disagreements, there will be. There need not be protracted acrimony on how we do things; on how we move forward. Everyone in this room wants to achieve the same goals.”

He identified abstinence advocacy as one area where consensus needs to be achieved. Abstinence as a strategy is deemed to be important.

He stated that the Health Ministry's position is that “abstinence only” approaches cannot work.

Government, he said, endorses a comprehensive approach to sexual responsibility that includes encouraging young people to delay sexual debut; with those who are already sexually involved developing the habit of using condoms every time.

He said the Health Ministry also promotes fidelity in relationships and discourages multiple-partner relationships.

He however acknowledged abstinence as an important strategic measure to reduce transmission of HIV.

Dr. Ramsammy noted that the Catholic Church, in requiring abstinence among priests, can tell this story.

He posited that a more realistic approach would be to encourage a behavioural adjustment that would allow young people to delay sexual debut for as long as possible.

“But we must not believe that just because we encourage young people to abstain, they will. We must cater also for those who would not be able to adjust behaviour in time,” the Minister said.

Another area where Ramsammy believes that consensus must be gained is in the menu of prevention measures, which he says needs to be identified and included in all work programmes.

“The fact is that there are many prevention strategies, and a place must be created for the use of all of these. Each strategy will work in a different way, for different groups.

“These must include PMTCT, condom use, delay of sexual debut, addressing the issue of relationships, looking at target groups and behaviour, such as sexual work and MSM.”