Focus placed on community involvement to end AIDS

─ Ministry of Public Health fosters partnerships, funding civil society response to AIDS

─ Takes the lead in implementing social contracting

─ Guyana leads Caribbean in achieving 90/90/90 treat all target

DPI, Guyana, Monday, September 23, 2019

The involvement of persons at the community level has been recognised as being key to a strong response to AIDS in Guyana. This year’s theme – Communities make the difference’ – takes this into consideration.

World AIDS Day will be observed on December 1, 2019; however, efforts are already underway to increase awareness among target groups while ensuring the UNAIDS 90/90/90 target is achieved. The Public Health Ministry has engaged persons at the community level, empowering them through funding to reach key populations.

At the launch of this year’s World AIDS Day, Minister of Public Health, Hon. Volda Lawrence said there is an intensified commitment to end AIDS by 2020, which has seen funding of Non-Governmental Organisations and Community based groups.

“The Government of Guyana has provided $16Million for 2019 and is the first in the Caribbean to implement this approach in funding the work of civil society as a means of sustaining the HIV response while faced with shrinking donor funding,” she said.

[In the photo, at the head table, from left to right] At the launch of the theme for World AIDS Day 2019, PAHO/WHO Country Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, Colette Adams, Country Director, UNAIDS, Dr. Michael Gboun, Minister of Public Health, Hon. Volda Lawrence and Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud

According to Minister Lawrence, an additional $10M in funds will go towards this exercise. This is referred to as social contracting which will entail NGOs collaborating with the ministry to ensure that community efforts in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS are effective.

“Quite recently the ministry had put forward a five-year sustainability plan which was approved by Cabinet and this plan will help us set out our programme in terms of partnerships, in terms of our involvement at the community level where we can get into social contracting,” she added.

Guyana is one of the first countries in the Caribbean to implement social contracting for the HIV/AID pandemic. Therefore, these funds will go towards the achievement of two goals, the first of which is the 90/90/90 Treat All strategy and the 2030 End AIDS for Good goal. It has been noted that Guyana is leading the way in the Caribbean in achieving the 90/90/90 target.

The 90/90/90 target seeks to ensure that 90% of all HIV-positive persons are diagnosed, 90% of those are provided with antiretroviral therapy and for 90% of those being treated to be virally suppressed by the end of 2020. Currently, statistics indicate that in Guyana, 93% of a total figure of 8,200 persons living with HIV know their status while 73% of those are on treatment and 81% of those on treatment have been virally suppressed.

PAHO/WHO Country Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow said, “Guyana is seen as leading in the Caribbean in terms of our efforts, in fact, for the first 90 we were bracketing with Barbados but the second and third 90 although we haven’t achieved it, we are still ahead of everybody.”

It is for this reason, the option of social contracting has been taken by the ministry with support from its partners, UNAIDS and PAHO/WHO. UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Michael Gboun explained that overtime they have seen the effects civil society’s role in capturing HIV/AIDS cases and ensuring they get on and stay on treatment.

“Guyana has the last mile to achieve the global 2020 targets. Communities along with all our partners included have made this possible…When communities are empowered, results indeed have followed. Community empowerment and ownership have resulted in a greater uptake of HIV and prevention and treatment services, a reduction in stigma and discrimination and the protection of human rights.” The UNAIDS Director said.

He added that the social contracting scheme is a new model which is likely to result in better results. He also applauded the government’s effort of pooling resources towards ensuring this initiative is sustained in the face of “dwindling donor funding.”

While efforts are intensified to meet the 2020 Treat All target, the government along with their supporting partners have committed to the other goal of ending AIDS by 2030. Meanwhile, as Guyana prepares with the rest of the world to observe World AIDS Day in the public and private sectors, including the media, have been encouraged to make the AIDS awareness message their business.