Davis Memorial Hospital sets up HIV voluntary testing siteSunday, October 1, 2006 – 4:17 pm
The Davis Memorial Hospital has joined the HIV/AIDS fight by establishing a Voluntary Counselling & Testing (VCT) site at its D’Urban Backlands location, promising that persons can access free counselling and treatment in a comfortable and confidential atmosphere.
The programme’s coordinator, Pamela Mentore, recently told Stabroek News that the hospital had entered the fight in collaboration with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and USAID. Davis Memorial is the second private hospital to provide free counselling, testing and treatment, after St Joseph’s Mercy Hospital first took up the mantel through CRS.
The ARV medication is accessed through the Ministry of Health and the treatment regimen is produced locally.
Mentore told Stabroek News that although they had not officially declared the service available, their initial public relations work appeared to be very effective as persons had already started visiting the institute for assistance and they had not turned them away.
They had been seeing persons for almost three weeks now but the programme was set to officially commence at the end of this month. Without giving a direct figure, Mentore said they had seen about 15 persons and some had commenced treatment while others had received counselling.
Mentore, who is the chief family life counsellor at the hospital and has worked in many other institutions, both private and public, said she was the first person a prospective patient would see and she had three other persons who assisted her.
Services are available from Monday to Thursday between 8.30 am and 4.30 pm and on Friday from 8.30 am and 12 pm. Persons can access HIV testing, ARV treatment, medical consultation and follow-up care, laboratory testing, x-rays, diagnostic and nutrition counselling, as well as links to home-based care, among other services.
Dubbed the ‘Ready Care Programme,’ Mentore said the programme sought to make the lives of the HIV positive person better as they would not only be offering counselling, testing and treatment if the patients required it, but they would also assist them in seeking employment and accessing loans. Recently the Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction Programme (GHARP) initiated the coming together of the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED), the Guyana Telephone & Telegraph Company (GT&T) and the Guyana Lottery Company which resulted in HIV/AIDS positive persons being given the opportunity to access small loans from IPED to start up businesses.
Mentore said their programme would also seek to assist persons who were related to the infected persons as it was known that they would be affected by their relatives’ HIV status. She said once the affected persons were willing, the department would work along with them in a holistic approach to assist their clients in the best possible manner.
Persons wanting to access the programme can visit the hospital and ask for Mentore and they would right away be ushered into her office. She pointed out that she headed the hospital’s Family Care and Support Services Department of the hospital and saw persons for many different reasons so no one would be able to tell whether the person was there for HIV-related issues or something else. She said the hospital was aware that the issue of confidentiality was of paramount importance and therefore they took it very seriously. She had worked in similar areas before so this was not new to her but still she and the rest of her staff had undergone intense training before the programme commenced.
After seeing her or one of her assistants and receiving counselling the client will then be sent to the laboratory where they will be tested and the results made available in about 15 minutes. Regardless of what the result is the persons will receive follow-up counselling where further advice will be given on what their next steps should be.
Like other treatment sites the hospital only puts patients on ARV after their CD4 count has been tested and has been determined to be at a level which would require treatment. And before the patient was placed on treatment, Mentore said, they would advise them on the importance of taking the treatment and also attempt to find out about some of the difficulties the patient may face which would prevent them from taking the treatment at the prescribed time. The programme will assist the patient in overcoming that hurdle and one way to do this is by linking them to home-based care services. The patients were also treated for other related illness, Mentore added.