Ministry pumping $85.5M more into NGOs for HIV/AIDS projects
Stabroek News
January 25, 2007

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Within the next two years the Ministry of Health through its Guyana HIV/AIDS Prevention & Control Project (GAPCP) will spend an additional $85.5M to fund sixteen HIV/AIDS-related programmes.

The ministry yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Non-Governmental Organisations which are going to execute sub-projects in various areas across the country, including Buxton/Foulis, Linden, Mabaruma, Berbice and Georgetown. Previously MOUs were signed with seventeen NGOs.

To date 44 projects have been funded by GAPCP, and of the programmes being funded three had been previously assisted. Included in the three are Lifeline Counselling's Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) programme which offers support to OVCs, hot meals to persons living with HIV/AIDS and skills training among other things.

Among NGOs putting up new proposals that were favoured are the Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), Spectrum Health Net programme and the Art of Living with its innovative yoga and self-control programme geared towards HIV/AIDS patients.

Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy remarked yesterday that not every project funded in the past had lived up to expectations but there were success stories for some.

"We do not expect that everyone would have the same success but we are hoping everyone will work towards the goals outlined in their proposals. It is not as though we expect to be happy all the time but at least most of the time," Ramsammy said.

He urged the NGOs to execute their projects in a timely manner and expressed hope that the efforts at the community level will be well organised.

The NGOs to receive funding are Lifeline Counselling Services; Roadside Baptist Church; Operation Restoration; Monique's Caring Hands; U and Me Organisation; Sunshine Women & Youth Organisation; Information for Life; The Youth Mentorship Endeavour; Dance Alive, the Guyana Labour Union; Project BX; SASOD; the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association; Rumiveldt Children's Home & Care Centre; Art of Living and the Family Planning Association of Guyana.

SASOD through its pilot project is aiming to promote awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS and STDs among the men who have sex with men (MSM) population using web-based interventions and brochures. They are hoping to achieve this within the next few months.

Joel Simpson, chairperson of SASOD, told Stabroek News they are hoping to target at least 1,000 MSM by September. He said the project does not require physical visibility and offers an online forum where necessary information will be provided. In addition, he said, there will be interactive discussions that will be controlled, moderated and contextual.

According to Simpson, SASOD decided to get involved in the project because of the homophobic climate in the society. He said homophobia increases the vulnerability of MSM who are a high-risk group.

"They are invisible to many HIV/AIDS programmes but that is going to change with the introduction of Spectrum Health Net because we are catering for the sensitive issues but utilising a different strategy," Simpson said.

The Art of Living project aims to strengthen the defence systems of persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) to combat the virus while building their confidence and spirit to live life fully and meaningfully. Additionally, it aims to sensitise youths and adults on the HIV/AIDS virus and reinforce human values such as caring and sharing.

This will be done via 8-day workshops for PLWHA and 5-day sensitisation workshops for youths and adults with regular weekly follow-ups for all categories.

Rolinda Kirton of Art of Living said the course uses gentle yoga, intensive breathing techniques and profound knowledge to build physical and mental strength while infusing the spirit to fight back. It also engenders a sense of belonging so that all participants see the uniqueness of each individual. (Iana Seales)