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 Agency Gears Up To Fight AIDS and TB in Guyana

Ottawa – June 30, 2003 – The Canadian Society for International Health (CSIH) has partnered with Guyana’s Health Ministry to improve Guyana’s public health system and to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Titled “Public Health Strengthening In Guyana,” and armed with approximately $5 million (Canadian), the CSIH project has three aims:

  1. to help Guyana take the first steps toward establishing a modern Health Information System (HIS);
  2. to slow the spread of HIV infections and treat those already infected; and
  3. to combat the spread of Tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases

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, and up to 45% of sex workers are infected. According to 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 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 the national 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.

Due to the high HIV/AIDS prevalence, and its interaction with other sexually transmitted diseases and Tuberculosis, the existing public health system is under peculiar stress. The CSIH intervention will introduce modern techniques and technologies to better monitor the spread of disease, train health professionals and develop community approaches to provide appropriate care, and to more rapidly and efficiently direct resources to where they are most needed.

The project officially commenced on June 3, 2003, with a signing ceremony in the Guyanese capital of Georgetown, attended by the Minister of Finance, Saisnarine Kowlessar, and the Canadian High Commissioner, Serge Marcoux.

The CSIH is a Canadian 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