According to GINA, the Ministry of Health held a Gender Challenge Fund Workshop in collaboration with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the US Centers for Disease Control with the aim of identifying, prioritising and implementing Guyana’s Gender Based Violence (GBV) initiative.
According to GINA, the programme seeks to highlight the link between gender and the HIV epidemic and at the workshop discussions were centred on the status of gender-based violence locally and how it can be mainstreamed in the ministry’s programmes.
Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health said that the workshop which provided an opportunity to have stakeholders engaged in strategic planning is a significant step towards curbing GBV and the HIV/AIDS spread in Guyana.
He added that while the Health Ministry has been looking at the risk factors associated with the spread of the disease, government is working to have the Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS completely eliminated.
Currently, the Ministry of Health has an intensive Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme, which so far has proven successful, GINA said.
“The objective of the programme and what the staffers of the Ministry of Health and the National AIDS Programme Secretariat have been working on is to ensure that no child is born with HIV, and so we have been strengthening our programmes,” the Chief Medical Officer was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Deputy US Chief of Mission, Thomas Pierce while lauding the move, stated that PEPFAR has been supporting GBV initiatives as it recognises the importance of preventing and responding to the scourge.
He said further that while GBV remains a global based pandemic, PEPFAR will continue to lend assistance to developing countries to eliminate the spread of HIV/AIDS and GBV.
“It is within our policies to promote human rights and to achieve global health and the US Government PEPFAR programme will continue to fight this pandemic as it continues to put young women at higher risk of HIV infections,” Pierce stated.
One out of every three women around the world is faced with GBV, and according to the US Mission Deputy Chief, linking GBV and HIV/AIDS strategies is of utmost importance as it is an approach to address the issue.
Centers for Disease Control, Guyana Country Director, Dr. Barbara Allen underscored the importance of the workshop and noted that the CDC remains committed and pleased to be associated with the forum as it will aid in the decrease of GBV cases in Guyana and the spread of disease.
Currently there are 5,900 people reported living with HIV/AIDS in Guyana and according to Dr. Allen much work needs to be done as the scourge which can be emotional, physiological and physical in nature, not only affects the victims, but their children as well.
“Today’s meeting has been convened to bring together a cross-section of civil society and government agencies to help develop an inclusive and coordinated approach to invest in this epidemic,” she said.
According to Dr. Allen, the CDC is aware that certain strategies will not be successful unless they are community driven and therefore the involvement of everyone is crucial.
Over the years, the Ministry of Health has been implementing programmes which are aimed at reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS such as the National Week of Testing, the PMTCT programme and the distribution of free anti-retroviral medications, GINA added.