Countrywide HIV testing aims at 1,000 persons
November 17, 2006
HIV testing will be done countrywide today as the Ministry of Health executes its National Day of Testing which is aiming to have over 1,000 persons tested before all sites close at 7 pm tonight.
Under the theme: "Time is running out: Get Tested Now" the Ministry plans to utilize its 36 fixed VCT (Voluntary Counselling and Testing) sites and 82 PMTCT (Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmis-sion) sites to conduct HIV testing in every region. Temporary sites will be set up in Regions Nine, Seven, One and Eight.
A mobile team will be operating in Georgetown and its environs and will also make a trip to the University of Guyana. Close to 45 NGOs are on board with the Ministry and will mobilize communities across the country to support the day of testing.
Speaking with the media yesterday, enthused Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said testing will be conducted according to the national VCT guidelines and protocols and by trained and certified counsellors/testers. He stressed that at no time will testing will be conducted by uncertified persons and at street corners.
He said that on average 150 persons get tested for HIV per day in Guyana and it is hoped that over 1,000 will get tested today. Ramsammy noted that each region will appoint its senior laboratory technician to inspect and ensure quality assurance at all fixed and temporary sites for the day.
"All information will be handled with strict confidentiality and referrals will de done in consultation with clients. No one need worry - everything will be done very professionally and in keeping with guidelines," the Minister said.
The National Day of Testing is intended to encourage people to know their status and to help erase the stigma attached to getting tested for HIV. Ramsammy said it will also help to prevent new infections by increasing awareness, education and access to VCT.
He noted that the establishment of the VCT programme has been a feature of national HIV prevention strategies in Guyana and many other countries.
Ramsammy told reporters that recent concerns raised by the National AIDS Committee (NAC) were addressed but noted that persons who are still opposed to the day need to join instead and support the initiative.
The National AIDS Programme (NAPS) Secretariat located at Hadfield Street and College Road will be used as a temporary testing site and will be equipped with two testers and counsellors.
Among some of the NGOs on board are Artistes in Direct Support, Youth Challenge Guyana, the Guyana Red Cross Society, the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, The Network of G+, the Guyana Rice Producers Association and the Guyana Defence Force Credit Union.
Some of the VCT sites that can be assessed today are Hope for All (Region 2), Parika Health Centre (Region 3), GUM clinic, GPHC In-patient clinic, Lifeline Counselling, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Enmore Poly Clinic (Region 4), Comforting Hearts, New Amsterdam Family Health Centre (Region 6). (Iana Seales)