STABROEK NEWS
Georgetown, Guyana
June 10, 2003

Canada pledges support for disease control programme

A Memorandum of Under-standing (MOU) was signed yesterday between the government and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to assist the government in better responding to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB).

An MOU was yesterday signed between the Government of Guyana and CIDA for the commencement of a four-year programme aimed at enhancing the country's capacity to deal with STIs/HIV/AIDS/TB. In this photograph, Minister of Finance, Saisnarine Kowlessar (second from right) shakes hands with Canadian High Commissioner, Serge Marcoux. Looking on is Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy (right) and head of CIDA, Murray Kam.

The four-year programme will cost $5.52M Canadian dollars and aims at strengthening the public health system by enhancing the capacity of the government to better manage and deliver disease prevention and control programmes and to effectively plan, manage and evaluate health care services.

The signing ceremony was held in the boardroom of the Ministry of Finance and was attended by Minister of Finance, Saisnarine Kowlessar, who signed on behalf of the government, Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, Canadian High Commissioner, Serge Marcoux and other health officials.

According to the project document, many treatable STIs continue to increase in both prevalence and incidence despite the availability of drug treatment.

In many cases, the document said, the extent of the problem and the range of responsible pathogens were impossible to define because of the lack of diagnostic capacities, relevant expertise and adequate staffing. More-over, many gains made from public health interventions, such as childhood immunisation programmes were being eroded by the consequences of the increasing burden of HIV infections.

The project is seeking to address these issues by providing additional resources, including capacity building assistance at the national level as well as in a number of targeted regions.

Ramsammy described the goal of the programme as one to improve and maintain the health of Guyana's population, by supporting an integrated approach to disease prevention, diagnosis, management and care at the national and district/community levels.

The first component would focus on including support for the National AIDS Pro-gramme Secretariat; creating national guidelines for STI/HIV/AIDS; developing the capacity of the country's educational institutions; and strengthening the laboratories. The investment for this component would be CDN$1.37M.

Component two is aimed at supporting the national tuberculosis programme; development of national guidelines for TB; developing the capacity of education institutions and strengthening the work of laboratories. This is expected to cost CDN$1.09M.

Three issues will be focused on under component three and these are the development and implementation of a health information system; health information training and health information science education; and health information system evaluation. This will cost CDN$1.129M.

Under component four the ministry hopes to develop a home and palliative care system and to enhance workplace interventions in health at a cost of CDN$798,495.

Component five will deal with capacity building gender workshops and the investment will be CDN$48,205.

And under component six it is expected that the mass media would be used to sensitise the public about project activities and the investment here will be CDN$146,868.

It is expected that once the programme is completed there would be an improved awareness of gender specific health issues and an increased capacity of project participants to integrate gender into their work.

In his remarks, Marcoux said countries must embark on a sustained commitment to strengthen their response to these problems. "This involves improving services; providing training, supplies and equipment; strengthening management; and enhancing monitoring and evaluation."

He said countries like Guyana had demonstrated that political commitment at the highest levels was key to controlling these diseases. He warned that it should not be forgotten that while HIV causes AIDS, the pandemic itself was driven by the interaction of many factors, including poverty, gender inequalities, unemployment, migrant and refugee flows, conflict, stigma and discrimination. "Poverty is, therefore, both a cause and a consequence of the pandemic."