2005 World AIDS campaign launched-No child will be refused HIV test -Ramsammy pledgesFriday, September 9, 2005 – 7:24 pm
Source: Stabroek News
Health centres attached to the Ministry of Health would not turn away any school child who goes for an HIV test or anyone seeking counselling or testing for HIV, says Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.
Speaking on the occasion of the launching of Guyana 2005 World AIDS Campaign, themed Stop AIDS ‘Keep the Promise’, at the Promenade Gardens yesterday, Ram-sammy said that, “all those persons who might find it’s wrong, need to re-examine themselves.”
He reiterated that, “health centres will not turn away a child from school who wants to have an HIV test… I am saying this because I know some children have been turned away because some people have said they need their parents’ permission to come to the health centre and seek a test for HIV. We will not turn away anyone who comes to seek counselling and testing for HIV.”
However, he stressed that Guyana’s policy continues to be abstinence, delay of sexual debut, and to teach those who are sexually involved how to live within a faithful relationship. For those who are not sure that they are in such relationships, he said they should be able to use condoms.
Speaking about programmes in place to deal with the treatment of HIV/AIDS and encouraging everyone to get involved in the fight against the scourge, Ramsammy urged everyone as World AIDS Day (December 1) approaches to know their status as it relates to HIV.
He issued an open invitation for some persons to join him on Thursday, when he would be doing an HIV test, to do the same. “I am going to get my test again. I promise to do that every six months and I would do so publicly.”
Guyana’s promise, he said, was that everyone should know their status and the service for this knowledge would be provided by the public sector free of cost.
Noting developments in treating HIV/AIDS, Ramsammy said that before 2001, studies showed that 7% of pregnant women tested positive for HIV. So far this year studies have shown the prevalence among pregnant women is 2% and this was due to the information and services that the public and private sector provided.
Guyana, too, he said was willing to work with others not only to accept help given but to provide the kind of aid “we can give, the kind of innovations that we have developed in our country. We can share those with others those things that we believe could help us to win the fight with everyone.”
He recalled that in 2001, he announced that the government would treat everyone tested positive with anti-retroviral drugs. Some said it was impossible and some said it would not work, he noted, adding that since then many have been treated and at present there are some 1,000 persons on free treatment for HIV/AIDS.
In brief remarks, US Ambassador to Guyana, Roland Bullen, noted this year’s World AIDS campaign theme reaffirmed the commitment to eradicate this epidemic and it appeals to all in the fight against AIDS to ensure continued commitment and dedication in the delivery of HIV prevention services and care.
Under the emergency plan, Bullen said America was working with partners in the country and supporting national strategies to extend lives and ameliorate the suffering caused by HIV and AIDS worldwide.
The focus, he said, was no longer on the hurdles faced in fighting this disease but in urgently employing the best practices available to fight the disease and bring hope. The work in this bilateral programme with Guyana is furthered by America’s donation to the global fund and the support and partnership with other international organisations such as UNAIDS, UNICEF, PAHO and WHO.
In collaboration with the Guyana government, Bullen said, the US mission in Guyana has been very active in responding to the crisis with the support of various agencies. The mission, he said, has made a commitment to prevent 13,352 new infections, treat 1,800 persons and provide care and support for 9,000 persons by 2008.
Speaking on behalf of the UNAIDS group, Dr Bernadette Theodore-Gandi said the campaign was meant to bring attention and to lobby for the fulfilment of the UN declaration and commitment on HIV and AIDS in 2001.
In a brief comment, too, the Honorary Secretary of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mark Harris signalled the business community’s commitment not only locally but also regionally and beyond as employers now come face to face with the disease in the work place.
Desiree Edghill of the Artistes In Direct Support said non-governmental organisations have been supporting the fight against AIDS and have in the past led the fight against the spread of HIV.