Minister within the Public Health Ministry, Dr Karen Cummings wants the discrimination against people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) to stop.
According to the Minister, people living with HIV/AIDS have the same rights as everyone else, as enshrined in the United Nations Human Rights Declaration. She said that the Public Health Ministry was committed to providing quality HIV/AIDS prevention treatment, care and social support without discrimination. The Minister was speaking at the National Conference for People Living with HIV (PLHIV), at the Regency Suites Hotel on Hadfield Street, on Tuesday.
The one-day conference was held to resuscitate the network of Guyanese people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, and was hosted by the National Coordinating Coalition.
Dr Cummings said that over the years, Guyana has made tremendous strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS. According to the Minister, Guyana’s goal is to end AIDS by 2030 and achieve the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 targets.
Additionally, to end the stigma, the Ministry will be undertaking a survey to measure the level of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS that exist in Guyana, the Minister said.
“To effectively conduct this survey, we need to work with PLHIV. Therefore, it is important that the opportunity of this conference is used to reorganise the network of PLHIV. Such that most PLHIV can be reached to inform the survey, and provide a representative analysis of stigma and discrimination,” Minister Cummings explained.
The Minister further explained that data collected from the survey would be used to guide the development of evidence-based programmes for people living with the virus. The survey can also help to improve self-esteem, boost morale, decrease isolation and depression, and improve health through access to better information.
Minister Cummings is also urging people living with HIV/AIDS to get the necessary treatment, as they were recognised by the Government as productive members and contributors to society.
The Minister emphasised that the Government would continue to provide resources to train and engage or employ people living with HIV in self-care, in HIV prevention, as community health workers in the practicalities and legal and social aspects of HIV and counselling.
“We will also continue to ensure psycho-social support for persons living with HIV who, in revealing their status, may experience discrimination against themselves or their dependents,” Dr Cummings explained.
Programme Manager of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat, (NAPS), Dr Rhonda Moore said at the end of 2016, 8492 persons were estimated to be living with HIV. However, Dr Moore pointed out that 84 per cent of the people who know their status were placed on medication.
“The encouragement that we want to give is to find yourself linked to a treatment site, and when you get to that treatment site do everything that you can to prepare yourself to work with the doctors, to prepare yourself to start treatment. The studies have shown that starting treatment earlier leads to good outcomes in the future. People live longer and they live healthier,” Dr Moore explained.
Additionally, the doctor called on persons living with HIV to support others who really need care, and to ensure that they seek treatment. Dr Moore acknowledged that some persons living with HIV/AIDS were coping with it while others were not. Additionally, a call was made for Government to play a more integral role in the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS from UNAIDS Country Director, Dr Martin Odiit. Dr Odiit said the Government should create and promote education and employment, promote and adopt workplace policies in the formal and informal sectors and strengthen organisations that support persons living with HIV/AIDS.