|PAHO HIV Aids Support in Guyana|
In fulfilling its mandate, PAHO/WHO continued to provide strong technical support to the Ministry of Health in the area of HIV/AIDS. During 2005 the Minister of Health mandated PAHO/WHO to facilitate the preparation of a new National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan for 2006-2010.
This plan was prepared in collaboration with all partners and stakeholders involved in HIV/AIDS/STI activities, and the final draft was put together through several national consultations in different focus areas of HIV/AIDS/STI.
As a result of working together on this strategy more alliances were formed thereby strengthening relationships between partners and stakeholders and guaranteeing a multi-sectoral response to the HIV epidemic. The plan has started to pay dividends and is contributing to the achievement of the “3 Ones” objectives. It will also provide a more guided and comprehensive national response to HIV in Guyana as all partners would be guided by this document.
In order to enhance the quality of HIV treatment, PAHO/WHO participated in a workshop organized by the Ministry of Health to revise the national Guidelines for the Treatment of HIV/AIDS. The PAHO/WHO Guidelines for HIV/AIDS treatment were widely used and referred to during the workshop and in the revision of the current guidelines for Guyana. It is anticipated that the revisions to the current guidelines would allow more people to be put on treatment earlier in the disease cycle and also reduce the number of persons who would need to go on second-line treatment. This approach would indeed benefit both the patient (who would be getting prompt treatment in the early stage of the disease thus curbing the chances of developing deadly opportunistic infections) and the Guyana Government (reduced financial expenditure as less people would need to take second-line drugs which are very expensive). PAHO would continue to be part of the annual revision process of these activities.
PAHO/WHO was also approached by the Minister of Health to lead facilitation meetings for the development and preparation of the National Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Plan in line with the Strategic Plan. The facilitation meetings were held in collaboration with the major partners and stakeholders involved in M&E activities related to HIV/AIDS and included People Living with HIV/AIDS, civil society and non-governmental organizations.
The M&E Plan was presented to partners and stakeholders simultaneously with the National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan. Both documents therefore formed the basis for Guyana’s HIV/AIDS programme over the next five years. One coordinated HIV/AIDS Programme would allow the various partners to monitor the same indicators of interest to the Government of Guyana and to support all the international declarations and commitments to which Guyana is a part MDGs, 2001 UNGASS Declaration, The 3 Ones, as well as other related internal programmes. In addition to facilitating harmonization among stakeholders, a single programme would also allow partners and stakeholders to contribute to one approach instead of several scattered plans from individual agencies and donors.
Addressing the Unfinished Agenda
PAHO will be working to expand on, enhance, and consolidate its work on several fronts in the battle against HIV/AIDS. This is going to encompass both improving quality of care as well as increasing access to services covering most aspects of HIV/AIDS related health issues including the areas of Voluntary Counselling and Testing; Stigma and Discrimination; and, of course, Treatment and Care, inclusive of the provision of ARVs.
PAHO will also continue providing technical support following four main strategic objectives. The first, centred upon the increasing of the political commitment to and leadership in fighting the disease, is intended to ultimately broaden and strengthen the formulation and implementation of HIV/AIDS policy in Guyana by building alliances among organisations and strengthening the capacity of communities to respond effectively to the threat.
The second strategic objective, the strengthening of health systems and services for HIV/AIDS treatment, is anticipated to increase the Ministry of Health’s capacity to deliver even more efficient and effective services in clinical and diagnostic management, including care and psychological support. To this end, a rapid assessment of human resources in health in Guyana will be conducted to inform the action plan.
The third major strategic objective during the upcoming year will be interventions geared to prevent the spread of HIV infections. This will entail supporting the Ministry in its ability to develop, implement and evaluate programmes geared to communicate the dangers of HIV/AIDS to vulnerable populations like youth, women (particularly female sex workers), men who have sex with men, prisoners and people living with HIV/AIDS. Hopefully this strategy will lead to positive behaviour change in these groups.
The organisation has been rendering technical assistance, for example, to the Nemesis Development Association, a local NGO which provides information on HIV/AIDS information to prisoners at various official detention facilities around the country. The findings of a qualitative survey on behaviours in two vulnerable groups – commercial sex workers, and men who have sex with men – will officially be released at the end of June this year.
The fourth strategic objective is to be able to take record of the lessons learnt so that they can be put to use as the organisation’s engagement with the problem of the HIV/AIDS pandemic continues.
Facing New Challenges
The perception that HIV/AIDS is over-funded may be based on a narrow view of what constitutes the fight against the disease. While most persons see AIDS issues as restricted to those like the provision of ARVs, stigma and discrimination PR campaigns, and the provision of free condoms that the problem of HIV/AIDS is so pervasive that it affects, or is affected by, many other seemingly unrelated areas; and much of the money made available under the auspices of HIV/AIDS programmes is allocated to areas which appear to only tangentially affect the central problem of AIDS. The fact is, in light of this, more financing is needed to make the best impact possible in all areas affected.