Over 40,000 persons were tested for HIV when the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) hosted National Week of Testing, according to Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy. According to a Government Information Agency (GINA) press release, the figure represents a new record that has lifted Guyana’s ranking among the countries where adults know their status. A partial count has revealed that 41,578 persons were tested this year, compared with 35,771 tested during last year’s exercise.
“The breakdown of the figures shows that 52 percent of the target achieved for testing was females while 48 percent were males. Another significant achievement was the reduction in prevalence rate for the 41,000 tested was 0.6 percent,” Ramsammy said last Thursday. As a result, Guyana’s figures, using the UNAIDS formula, show a further one per cent reduction in the HIV prevalence rate.
“We started at a rate of 5 percent in 2005… and prior to that in the early 1990s it was estimated that about 7 percent of the population was infected,” the minister added, while arguing that the reductions show that Guyana’s strategy of awareness and protection against the transmission of the disease is effective.
This year, National Week of Testing was observed under the theme ‘Confidential and Reliable: Get tested now.’
Ramsammy said the week of testing is a very important awareness programme and the response it received shows that Guyanese have not only become more knowledgeable about HIV but that they have taken precautions to prevent contraction and transmission of the disease. He also lauded the media and private sector entities for contributing to awareness about HIV, while noting that NGOs have boosted the ministry’s efforts by setting up large numbers of testing sites.
He also noted that more persons are becoming ambassadors by spreading the knowledge about HIV/AIDS and positive lifestyles, and in particular about the risk factors that relate to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
On the latter point, GINA noted that the health ministry has secured funding to ensure that its annual Ride for Life bicycle race continues until 2015 and it is working with counterparts in Suriname and French Guiana to expand the race into the Guianas and at the Inter-Guiana Games.