New home for NAPS

Guyana Chronicle
April 19, 2007

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The Ministry of Health yesterday officially declared open the new home of its National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), at the corner of Hadfield and College Road in Georgetown.

The building standing resplendent on the plot of land where once stood a tiny wooden building housing the Secretariat with its ever growing demands, was greeted with enthusiasm at yesterday’s ceremony.

Also commissioned yesterday was a Food Bank designed to benefit Persons Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).

The building was declared open by Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, and the ceremony witnessed by a gathering which included World Bank Representative Ms. Patricia Lopez, Minister in the Ministry of Health Dr. Bheri Ramsarran, other senior health officials – local and international, representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations, Persons Living with HIV/AIDS, and others.

Referring to the newly refurbished building as a “modern functional Secretariat, built to house and respond to the special demands of the comprehensive HIV/AIDS programme,” Dr. Charles Garrett of the Ministry of Health commended Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy as the key player through whose instrumentality the building is now a reality.

Garret noted that previously , as recent as January 2006, the building which housed the Secretariat was a ‘non-functional antiquated wooden building of approximately 18,000 square feet. With no modern facilities to support the clinical diagnostic and treatment activities associated with the programme, he said, it was designed for domestic use, but out of necessity had to be converted to the main facility from which the work of the National AIDS Programme was carried out.

But it was recognized by the administration that a functional Secretariat which can administer a comprehensive Prevention, Care and Treatment programme required more space and modern amenities.

Garret said that a proposal was prepared for the upgrade of the existing building, and a request made to the World Bank for funding. The Bank approved the request and granted a ‘No Objection’ for the engagement of two contracts: The design and supervision of a refurbished building at the cost of $798,483. This contract was awarded to Francois and Associates. The second contract entailed the reinforcement of the refurbishment of the entire building, at a cost of $23,285,000 and was awarded to Vishal Construction Company.

Work on the building began in May, 2006 and by December of the same year were substantially completed, giving rise to a “this little treasure”, featuring modern architecture and functionality, and about three times the size of the former building, Garrett said.

The new building has a capacity for about 30 resident staff members and includes executive offices.

Other amenities now housed at the Secretariat include the Food Bank for PLWHA; a Voluntary Counselling and Testing Area; Home Based Care; Behaviour Change Communication; Treatment and Care; Community Mobilisation; Research; Social Services; a hot line facility and a kitchenette.

Garrett gave an undertaking that the building will be used and maintained in the best interest of the HIV/AIDS Programme.

And an elated Dr. Ramsammy, proud that his untiring efforts had come to fruition, said of the National AIDS Programme, “We needed a home desperately for the coordination of the implementation of our HIV/AIDS programme…” He recalled the job of lobbying to get an appropriate building with the requisite facilities in place for the execution of a modern HIV/AIDS programme, adding that “the fight was well worth it.”

Minister Ramsammy said the problem was that the with the overall need for infrastructural and technological development in the health sector, there simply was not enough money to provide a real home for the HIV Programme.

Minister Ramsammy recalled that even with all the talk about setting up the various HIV programmes, there was still need for a ‘home’ for the programmes to allow the people coordinating the programme to operate as a team from under a common roof. He said that with them being ‘scattered all over the place’ would have rendered that difficult.

He expressed satisfaction that the team from the World Bank saw merit in what he was lobbying for, and agreed that a home was needed for the programme. “I think we all will agree that that debate was well worth it,” the Minister opined

Other speakers included World Bank Official Ms. Patricia Lopez; Dr, Shanti Singh, Programme Manager of the NAPS; Food Bank Manager, Mr. Samdatt Ramessar; and Ms. Norma Howard, Director (Acting) of the Food Policy Division.