Minister of Labour Manzoor Nadir told an audience at the launch of the Strategic HIV/AIDS Response for Enterprise and Tripartite constituents (SHARET) workshop that though Guyana lags in some areas government remains committed to the fight against the infection.
An opening ceremony and cocktail reception was held on Monday for the SHARET workshop and sessions were held on Tuesday and Wednesday. The workshop focused on sustaining the workplace action against HIV/AIDS in Guyana, a press release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) said. The workshop was hosted by the government in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), United States Department of Labour and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Nadir who had been instrumental in pushing for this programme to be made a reality, noted that government is extremely serious about its campaign against HIV/AIDS. He said Guyana still lags behind in the rate of infection however; government is not letting up its intensity and is determined to ‘cap’ the disease.
To this end a mapping exercise was commissioned to document all information on HIV/AIDS in Guyana. Over the past two months the ministry has done 23 interventions in the riverain areas recording good responses. The minister noted that government recognizes its responsibilities and role and with or without funding it will carry on its fight against HIV/AIDS. Meanwhile, Programme Manager Behrouz Shahandeh noted that nine out of ten people worldwide with HIV/AIDS are of working age. He noted that the ILO’s response is framed within the code of practice and anchored in human rights and the right to work. In recognising the vision and leadership of the programme advisory board, he observed that locally there is a conclusive framework on the HIV/AIDS policies with a sizeable number of enterprise programmes. Shahandeh pointed out that there are still a number of challenges regarding sustaining the programme; the levels of discrimination faced; access to care and support and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.
Meanwhile, Programme Coordinator Sean Wilson highlighted the achievements over the last six years including mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS on the world of work. He noted that one of the hallmarks of the programme is that someone living with HIV/AIDS is always a facilitator or co-facilitator and this works in breaking down stigma and discrimination. Wilson said too the National HIV/AIDS Workplace policy was launched on March 30, 2009 and Guyana is the only country that has implemented the project.
USAID Health Officer Mathew Nims said he is awed by the level of achievement thus far, noting that Guyana has a rare occurrence in its attitude toward the issue. According to GINA other speakers at the event included Samuel Goolsarran of the Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry, Norris Witter of the Guyana Trades Union Congress and Kenneth Joseph of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana.
The workplace HIV/AIDS awareness programme was launched in early 2009 as a model to be used for all employers to follow and for government to police and promote. This is the second largest running programme in the world under the ILO.