HIV/AIDS Private Sector Awards
Six standouts honoured at inaugural event
By Melanie Allicock
Kaieteur News
March 18, 2007

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The valuable contributions of six entities/individuals in the fight against HIV/AIDS were duly recognized by the Ministry of Health and the USAID/GHARP Private Sector Advisory Board when the organization hosted its first HIV/AIDS Private Sector Awards ceremony at the Umana Yana recently.

The USAID/GHARP Private Sector Advisory Board is a rapidly expanding alliance of organizations committed to fighting the disease through the unique skills, expertise and contributions of the private sector in Guyana .

In addition to honouring the input made by individual entities and their leaders in the fight against the disease, the Advisory Board launched the awards program in February with the aim of promoting best practices and expanding alliances with organizations dedicated to the combating the pandemic.

This year, awards were granted in six categories: Excellence in the workplace, Excellence in the community, Excellence for innovation, Excellence using core competency, Individual leadership in HIV/AIDS and Individual care provider on HIV/AIDS.

The organizations/individuals receiving accolades in the various categories were Scotiabank, Youth Challenge Guyana , the National AIDS Program Secretariat mobile outreach team, Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) Dereck Springer of the Lifeline Counselling Services and social worker of Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic Mr. Rajnauth Jaggernauth.

The awards were open to all entities involved in helping to reduce and prevent HIV/AIDS in the workplace and community, and attracted a large number of applicants.

Scotiabank has been a model entity in embracing the struggle against the pandemic.

The financial lending institution recognized the need to join in the response to HIV/AIDS in Guyana and their employees volunteered in large numbers and formed the Scotiabank Guyana HIV/AIDS Steering Committee last year.

The committee collaborated with GHARP to provide Workplace Training, Development of a corporate Policy, Assistance to Orphans and Vulnerable Children, Peer Education Training and Community Inclusion.

Since the formation of the committee, the bank has since adopted an HIV/AIDS Policy, proposed by the committee with the assistance of the ILO and GHARP, thus earning them the award for Excellence in the workplace.

The Award for Excellence in Innovation was won by the National AIDS Program Secretariat (NAPS) for their resourcefulness in providing comprehensive treatment care and support to persons living with HIV and AIDS throughout the country.

Established in 1992 under the guidance of the Ministry of Health, the Secretariat has worked assiduously in the delivery of quality programmes in prevention, treatment, care and support.

The Mobile Outreach treatment and care programme was established in the last quarter of 2005 with the aim of providing the complete package of comprehensive treatment, care and support to people living with HIV and AIDS in the hinterland regions of Guyana, this includes Regions 1, 7, 8 and 9.

The team comprises a physician and tester counselor which travels to the hinterland locations twice monthly and conducts general clinic and HIV Clinics in collaboration with support from the local members.

The Institute of Private Enterprise Development Ltd. (IPED) undertook the humanitarian and unprecedented decision in October 2005 to disburse loans to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) to enable them an opportunity at self-sufficiency. This earned the organization the Award for Excellence Using Core Competency.

IPED, which has as its mandate to help poor and disadvantaged groups, recognized the opportunity to target PLWHA with the launching of the GHARP, and designated an officer to spearhead this project and the programme.

As of December 31, 2006, a total of 42 loans were disbursed to 36 PLWHA with a value of $2,859,215.

Chairman of Lifeline Counseling Services Dereck Springer won the coveted award for Individual Leadership in HIV/AIDS.

Springer has been at the forefront of the response to HIV/AIDS in Guyana .

Initially he volunteered at the GUM Clinic and it was there that he met Mr. Phillip Vanderhyden, an HIV positive man who had been diagnosed with AIDS. It was at the urging of Mr. Vanderhyden and US Peace Corps Volunteer Jennifer Rosenzweig that Lifeline Counseling Services was founded in 1996.

Mr. Springer has been the driving force behind Lifeline's success and in the early days traveled all regions of the country conducting HIV and AIDS awareness sensitization and education programmes. He is currently piloting the MARCH project through which a radio serial drama Merundoi provides characters for positive modeling.

Meanwhile, the Award for Individual Care Provider went to Mr. Rajnauth Jaggernauth, a senior social worker at the Genito-Urinary Medicine Clinic.

Jaggernauth‘s main activities are counseling patients with various types of Sexually Transmitted Infections including HIV/AIDS. For the past 30 years he has been conducting Pre and Post Test Counseling for HIV; Adherence counseling for patients needing to start anti-retroviral therapy; Counseling on partner disclosure for HIV and patients with other STIs and Contact tracing for STI/HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Jaggernauth is also the head of the counseling department of the GUM clinic and supervises counselors and outreach workers who conduct these daily activities.

Youth Challenge Guyana 's exposure of more than 4000 youth in the ten administrative regions of Guyana to challenging and worthwhile community service projects ranging from health, literacy, environmental research, community infrastructure and HIV/AIDS/STI education earned them the Award for Excellence in the Community.

The project was established in 1990 to offer young people from Guyana and across the world an opportunity for personal development; leadership and problem solving experience.

Acknowledging the importance of political will and leadership in the fight against the pandemic, the Advisory Committee also presented Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, US Ambassador David Robinson and Head of NAPS Dr. Shanti Singh with tokens of appreciation for their roles in propelling the fight.

Delivering remarks at the event, Ambassador Robinson underscored the fact that the only truly effective response to fighting the pandemic is public/private partnership.

“No single sector has the imagination, reach, or resources to succeed on its own” The Ambassador stressed.

He noted the terrible consequences of inaction, not only to individuals but entire societies.

Pointing out the importance of community involvement, the Ambassador lauded the involvement of the private sector entities, positing that they are the real experts on HIV/AIDS.

“You may not know it but you the banker ,you the homemaker and the business persons are the real experts in the fight against HIV/AIDS … Not the doctors or the researchers, not the public health professionals… they are all essential of course, but you are the ones that will ultimately turn the tide on the epidemic.”

He stressed the point that HIV/AIDS transmission is driven largely by human behaviour and in most cases are the tragic, unintended consequences of choices and actions.

“Decisions like whether or not to wear a condom, whether or not to get tested or be faithful, whether or not to insist on knowing the status of one's partner and whether or not to abstain from sexual intercourse … all of these decisions are susceptible to your influence since you help to create the atmosphere and expectations to influence choices… you are more a part of persons everyday lives than the persons with the white coats and the test tubes and the needles … and that's what makes you the experts,” Ambassador Robinson posited.

In delivering the feature address Minister Ramsammy, in commending GHARP for its involvement of the private sector entities in the war on HIV/AIDS, reiterated that total partnership is necessary for a successful fight.

“Half-hearted involvement is not going to work and, indeed, may be more harmful. HIV is driven by a vicious cycle of risk, vulnerability and increasing impact of the epidemic. We need to replace these driving forces with risk reduction, vulnerability reduction and impact mitigation. For these things to happen we need to build a social partnership with the whole society. Today's event demonstrates that the coalition, the social partnership is already strong in Guyana .”

He noted that the solidarity and willingness among civic society groups to contribute to fight have been simply phenomenal. “I am encouraged by the eagerness with which so many NGOs have embraced the struggle against HIV and the determination of these organizations to ensure a collective and individual knowledge and awareness of HIV among our people. Truly, we have built a national crusade to combat HIV…yet there are others who must join this fight. I would hope that the recognition of the individuals and groups for their major contribution today would stir further individuals and groups to join the crusade.”

The Minister urged that as the efforts to strengthen the partnership continue, recognition be given to the fact that the mainstay of the fight has always been prevention efforts. He stressed that whilst impressive advances in treatment and care have been made, the need for prevention is today even more overwhelming.

“The number of persons who die because of AIDS has decreased globally. PLWHA are living longer. Many of them are living productive lives and are not as sick as they used to be. But globally also, more people continue to become infected. This has resulted from the successes of the treatment and care programs. But the fact that more people continue to become infected globally means that we need to do more on the front of prevention.”

He noted that in the case of the faith-based organizations, NGOs and workplaces, the scope is limitless in terms of prevention efforts.

The occasion which was attended by Ministers of the government, members of the Diplomatic Corps and other dignitaries, also saw twenty-one new organizations demonstrating a public show of commitment in partnering with GHARP in the fight against the disease by signing Memorandums of Understanding.

As part of the Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention Project's (GHARP) work plan for 2006, a Private Sector Advisory Board, which is comprised of CEOs and Human Resources Managers, was established in May 2006. This body was designed to enhance and expand the existing USAID-GHARP Private Sector Partnership and Workplace Program.

Since its establishment, the program has evolved into a robust coalition of private sector organizations that are actively engaged in helping to prevent and reduce HIV/AIDS in Guyana .

The Advisory Board, which was established through seed funding from USAID, was designed to help organize the current 43 private sector partners in a framework that will help to establish and build a sustainable coalition of private sector organizations engaged in HIV/AIDS prevention and reduction activities in Guyana.

By bringing together the first set of private sector partners, the goal was to help plant the seeds for establishing a sustainable and broader coalition of private sector organizations in Guyana that are engaged in efforts to help reduce and prevent HIV/AIDS in the workplace, community, and nation.

The Board also provides private sector partners an opportunity to share best practices with each other (such as in-house education and training, peer education programs, workplace policies, communication programs that promote sensitivity towards people living with HIV/AIDS, and training programs/material).

Since its establishment, this committed group of Chief Executive Officers and industry leaders has grown into one of the most robust coalitions within the Caribbean .

In the next few months, this group will be recognized as the Guyana Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS which will embrace a wider cadre of other public/private sector partners, including those that work with the ILO, the CDC, as well as organizations that have natural ties such as the Private Sector Commission, Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security; PANCAP; UNAIDS, and other donor and stakeholder organizations involved in private sector and workplace activities.

It is hoped that the coalition will become a self-governed self-sustainable organization and will serve to organize and coordinate the private sector's response to HIV/AIDS in the years ahead.

It is also anticipated that the group will become an active and prominent member of the Pan Caribbean Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS and the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS.

The Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction Project (GHARP) is a joint government of Guyana –US Government initiative to implement an expanded and comprehensive response to the HIV epidemic in Guyana .

The project aims to assist the Guyana government in meeting its goal of reducing the incidence of HIV and AIDS through improved policy coordination and management, increased risk reduction practices by most vulnerable populations, increased treatment and prevention services, and increased use of community-based care and support services.