USAID Program Has Helped Curb Spread of HIV in Guyana, Health Minister Says
Guyana's Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy said recently that a U.S.-supported HIV/AIDS prevention program has helped to reduce the country's HIV/AIDS prevalence from nearly 3% to about 1%, the AP/Google.com reports. Ramsammy said that the USAID/Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention Project, or GHARP, "is a huge success story." According to Ramsammy, the government has tested nearly half of the population over the past three years and used the results to track HIV/AIDS cases. USAID/GHARP is a $20 million program (AP/Google.com, 3/14).
USAID/GHARP, a President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program, was launched in 2004 and will come to a close at the end of April, the Stabroek News reports. According to Ramsammy, the project has a place in Guyana's development because of its contribution to reducing the spread of HIV. He said that 1.1% of pregnant women tested HIV-positive at the end of last year, compared with between 4.9% and 7% in 2000. Ramsammy reported that over the past two years, 90 pregnant women tested positive for HIV and that three infants were born with the virus. According to the health minister, the number of HIV cases among commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men remains high, although there has been some reduction in the number of cases. According to the News, Lisa Thompson, senior USAID/GHARP program officer, said that the program has helped to refurbish health care facilities to improve prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission and to increase the number of facilities offering these services. In addition, Thompson said voluntary counseling and testing centers were rebuilt under the program, adding that mobile testing teams brought these services to hard-to-reach rural communities.
According to the News, USAID/GHARP worked with other stakeholders to develop HIV/AIDS programs targeting young people still in school, as well as programs for youth no longer in school. The program also launched a condom marketing initiative. Family Health International, Management Sciences for Health, Cicatelli Associates Incorporated and Howard Delafield International also supported the program.
Ramsammy said that in order for Guyana to continue to be successful in curbing the spread of HIV, a national strategy is needed. He also noted that the ministry is developing its third strategy (Alleyne, Stabroek News, 3/14).