Roumyana Benedict
Project Director, Canadian Society for International Health
1 Nicholas St., Suite 1105
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7
Tel: 613-241-5785 ext 307
Fax: 613-241-3845

Canadian NGO Gears Up To Fight AIDS and TB in Guyana

Ottawa – June 30, 2003 – The Canadian Society for International Health (CSIH) has been awarded a contract from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to implement a health improvement programme in the South American nation of Guyana. Titled “Public Health Strengthening In Guyana,” and armed with approximately $5 million, the CSIH project will help Guyana take the first steps toward building its own modern Health Information System (HIS) and attempt to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and Tuberculosis in the impoverished Caribbean country.

Guyana, the original home of large expatriate communities in Canada and the USA, is one of the poorest English-speaking countries in the western hemisphere. Compounding its economic woes is Guyana’s runaway HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is ravaging that nation’s population. After Haiti, Guyana suffers from the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the region. Recent estimates suggest that as many as 1 in 20 Guyanese residents carry the HIV virus.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is complicated by its interrelationship with Tuberculosis, an increasingly problematic disease for many nations. TB kills 2 million people around the world each year, and the WHO has declared its spread a global emergency. Co-infections between HIV and TB are emerging as an important public health challenge. The Guyanese medical information infrastructure is as yet ill equipped to offer a reliable estimate of that nation’s TB burden, but preliminary indications suggest a worrying scenario. The CSIH project aims to strengthen Guyana’s public health system to better cope with its complicated disease burden.

According to Guyanese Minister of Health Leslie Ramsammy, Guyana “is truly under siege and on the precipice of disaster. HIV/AIDS threatens to decimate large numbers of our productive population. Unprecedented numbers of our children are being orphaned. The fabric of Guyana’s society is being relentlessly torn apart and our social and economic development, already lagging behind most countries in the Americas, is threatened with destruction.”

The goal of the Canadian project is to help the Guyanese government improve and maintain the health of Guyana’s population by supporting an integrated approach to disease prevention, diagnosis, management and care at both the national and local levels. By encouraging the development of an HIS for monitoring HIV/AIDS, TB and sexually transmitted diseases, and by training health professionals and developing community approaches to provide appropriate care, the CSIH project will strengthen the Guyanese public health system and help that nation engage in sustained development.

This endeavour represents a major 4-year commitment by Canadians to improve Guyanese health. The project officially commenced on June 3, 2003 with a signing ceremony in the Guyanese capital of Georgetown, attended by the Guyanese Minister of Finance and the Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana.

The CSIH is a national NGO with members committed to the promotion of international health and development. It serves as the technical representative in Canada for the Pan American Health Organization, the World Health Organization’s regional office.

Ray Deonandan, Ph.D
Epidemiology Communications Consultant
4601 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 219
Washington, DC USA 20008
Tel: 202-248-8899