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Guyana using lessons of International AIDS conference

Head of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat, Dr.Shanti Singh addressing the debriefing session the 20th International AIDS Conference. Seated are SASOD’s Executive Member, Joel Simpson and two Guyanese volunteers who participated in the conference that was held last July in Australia.

-to target babies and adolescents in delivering anti-retrovirals

As Guyana prepares to lay the groundwork to intensify its delivery of Anti-Retrovirals (ARVs) to babies and adolescents, authorities said the prevalence of virus among high-risk groups is high compared to the overall national figure.

Head of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), Dr. Shanti Singh announced on Thursday that local HIV clinicians would be trained because it was observed by experts at the 20th International AIDS Conference last July in Melbourne, Australia that “children were being left behind”  while there has been “good progress” in putting adults on ARVs.

“What we have defined to happen over the next year  would be what we call supportive supervision and mentoring for HIV clinicians to make sure that all of our pediatric cases who should be on ARVs are on ARVs and that there is adequate and appropriate management for those children,” she said.

Dr. Singh said that the United States Centres for Disease Control (CDC) have been asked to help Guyana re-examine the adolescent and pediatric programmes.

She said that the conference was repeatedly told that there more children who were eligible for those drugs but were not being administered. As a result, she said the survivability rates for those children were much lower compared to those of adults.

Highlighting the importance of focusing on the HIV-positive adolescent population, she said Guyana would be accessing funds to better understand the factors and dynamics of working with that segment.

Meanwhile, results of Guyana’s Biological and Behavioural Surveillance Survey (BBSS) show that while there has been a reduction in prevalence rates, there are “concentrated pockets of epidemics”-  4.8 percent for male homosexuals , 5.5 percent among female sex workers and 8.8 percent for transgenders.  Guyana’s overall prevalence rate is 1.4 percent or 7,700 being HIV infected and less than 500 new infections occurring annually.

Based on the statistics, she said NAPS has decided to focus on understanding the reasons for the high prevalence rate among transgenders, male sex workers and clients of sex workers. “We have seen from the survey that the clients of our sex workers are at a higher risk than the general population is,” said Dr. Singh.

The Guyanese non-governmental rights organization, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), received the 2014 Red Ribbon Award for Advocacy and Human Rights at the International AIDS Conference.

Representatives of two support groups, who attended that conference, told attendees at the de-briefing session how their participation has been helping them to deliver services.