Rising HIV infection here shows poor fight commitment
-National AIDS Committee
Stabroek News
December 1, 2006

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The National AIDS Committee (NAC) yesterday said that the rising incidence of HIV infection here - even though reportedly slower - shows the commitment to eradicate the spread of the disease is not being taken seriously enough.

In a message to mark World AIDS Day, the NAC, a voluntary body which promotes HIV/AIDS policy and advocacy issues, described Guyana's results as meagre despite the country's receipt of "unprecedented" financial aid.

The NAC, which also advises the Minister of Health and assesses the work of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat, also said that information must be more readily available and real issues which have been neglected must be made priorities. The committee said it is scandalous that only this year the link between violence against women and the feminization of HIV is beginning to attract priority attention locally and worldwide. The group said a 2005 United Nations AIDS report made public the figures on the widely imbalanced infection rates between women and men and it questions why the widespread violence that characterises the relations between men and women had not been targeted for prevention strategies since the onset of the epidemic. It questions why trafficking in women, forced prostitution and poverty are so invisible as factors sustaining the virus. The NAC said it is also concerned that access to a tailored drug regime for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs), drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men has still not been addressed.

The group, which also encourages networking among NGOs involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, is calling on government, donors and recipients, service providers, advocates, actors and PLWHAs to account for their efforts in fighting the pandemic. It said Guyana has benefited from unprecedented financial assistance and has a particular responsibility to "account for the seemingly meagre results achieved to date".

The group reiterated that the onus to be accountable is pressing not only because the ratio of resources to population makes Guyana one of the "very highest recipient countries in the world" but because programmes have been put in place that allow "widening circles in the society [to] benefit from them." The NAC said too that key prevention reference points for international firms which dominate the programmes here are not the pressing national issues but the global technical prevention factors of condom use, testing and safe blood. "Too much technical assistance is insulated from principles of good governance by dubious assumptions that foreign expertise is always superior to local knowledge."

The NAC said local planning suffers from a lack of up-to-date information because national information is reprocessed through these firms and returned to the country with time delays, distorted priorities and lack of context and this has to change if the scourge is to be effectively confronted.

The NAC added that instead of fashioning a united front from civil society organisations focused on generating policy and other reforms by making up-to-date information widely available, officials use the information as a political weapon. Chances are thereby lost to enable a swift response, dilute rivalries, increase accountability, strengthen co-operation and provide multiple opportunities for leadership.