Some 1,600 on ARVs at end of last year
- PEPFAR report
Stabroek News
March 24, 2007

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br> At the end of last year there were some 1,600 persons on anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment in Guyana with 800 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) being served by the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) OVC programme.

According to the PEPFAR report compiled for the 15 PEPFAR countries and presented to the US Congress, 2,900 HIV-infected individuals in Guyana received palliative care and support while some 23,600 pregnant women have been receiving prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services since the PEPFAR programme started in Guyana in 2003. And 262 of those pregnant women have received ARVs, while 28,300 persons received counselling and testing at the end of last year. The report said 33,900 individuals have been reached through community outreach HIV/AIDS prevention programmes that promote abstinence and or being faithful and 25,000 were reached through prevention activities that promote condoms and related prevention services.

However, the report said numbers may be adjusted as attribution criteria and reporting systems are refined since it is possible that some individuals were counselled and tested more than once. Further, it is possible that some pregnant women received ARVs more than once over the two-year period since some positive women were pregnant more than once.

The report noted that the virus has become the number one cause of death in Guyana among people between the ages 25 to 44, which is the most economically active population. It noted too that Guyana is deeply polarised along racial or ethnic lines and this affects all aspects of politics and society with roughly 35% of the population living below the poverty line. It said that the greatest weakness of the Guyanese economy is its relative isolation from outside markets, primarily as a consequence of poor transportation infrastructure. "Basic infrastructure is crumbling, a problem that is expected to persist given the ruggedness of the terrain and low investment in maintenance," the report said.

According to the report, in 2006 PEPFAR supported an increase in the number of service providers and facilities for PMTCT at antenatal care facilities from eight to 45. It also collaborated with the Ministry of Health to establish a network of school health clubs across nine regions in secondary schools that promote healthy lifestyles and HIV prevention among club members and their classmates. A network for regional distribution of condoms through non-traditional outlets was also established and this resulted in increased accessibility of condoms for the most-at-risk population.

In the area of treatment, the programme coordinated with the Health Ministry and others to pioneer a health information management system to enhance patient information collection, tracking and analysis and supported the procurement of haematology and chemistry laboratory equipment to monitor patients on ART. Support was also given to training of laboratory staff and clinical providers through a national strategic HIV training plan developed by partner organisations and the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, in the area of care PEPFAR/Guyana offered multi-disciplinary technical assistance and training to doctors, labs, and clinical staff in HIV/AIDS comprehensive management for HIV-positive patients. They also provided support for tuberculosis (TB) treatment and care for co-infected patients at the HIV/TB clinic and collaborated with the private sector to provide micro-credit for people living with HIV/AIDS, vocational skills building, as well as treatment for TB/HIV co-infected persons in remote areas.