HIV treatment available in all 10 regions - Ramsammy
-law against stigma, discrimination coming
December 1, 2006
While the task ahead is Herculean, Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy yesterday boasted of successes in the HIV programme such as the availability of treatment in all 10 regions and he also said laws are coming to ensure the reduction of stigma and discrimination.
In a message to mark World AIDS Day, Ramsammy said citizens must also keep promises made as individuals, families, communities, groups and as a nation to know their status thereby reducing the instances of transmission and discrimination. Ramsammy said he has been an unrelenting advocate for more programmes, particularly for areas such as proper condom use, promoting abstinence and reducing the number of sexual partners per person.
Ramsammy said so far, the list of successes in battling the infection is long as several awareness and other programmes are in place in schools, churches, non-governmental organisations and at work places and prevention messages have been aired on the radio and television and published in newspapers. These have been successful, he said, as behavioural surveys have shown that more Guyanese are changing their attitudes towards sex and sexual behaviour, getting tested and seeking treatment. Ramsammy also said that workplace programmes have doubled this year with active programmes in more than ten other government agencies and 25 in other organisations.
At the same time, the minister said, more than 75% of pregnant women can now access Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) care, which is a tremendous achievement as this programme was not available in 2001 and in 2005 only 42 PMTCT sites had been established. Eighty-five sites now offer this programme nationwide.
As regards access to treatment for People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) more than 1,500 persons are being treated with anti-retroviral drugs countrywide and can access routine assessments of their immune systems through CD4 measurement and viral load testing. More people are also being tested and, on November 17, National Day of Testing, about 1,200 volunteered for the test.
The minister said voluntary blood donations have also increased to about 30%. He said ten years ago voluntary blood donation stood at about 7% and today about 6,000 units are collected in comparison to about 2,500 in 2001.
The minister also said laws to prevent stigma and discrimination against PLWHAs have been drafted after extensive collaboration and consultation. The drafts are being considered by the Cabinet sub-committee and are likely to be placed on the legislative agenda in 2007.