HIV-Positive Children in Guyana Receive Life-Prolonging Medicines

GEORGETOWN, GUYANA  — Guyana, one of the 15 priority countries identified by President George W. Bush for AIDS relief, recently received US$110,000 in pediatric antiretroviral (ARV) drugs from the US Government. US Ambassador Roland Bullen transferred the life-prolonging drugs to Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy during an official ceremony in Guyana. The drugs will be distributed through the Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention (GHARP) project, funded by the US Agency for International Development.

This initial shipment of drugs will be used to treat 30 HIV-positive children for six months. Currently there are 61 HIV-infected children who are being monitored at clinics. About 15 of these children require ARVs.

Guyana, the third smallest country in South America, is facing a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. With an estimated 3-5 percent of the adult population already HIV-positive, Guyana has the second-highest number of HIV cases in the region. During the next five years, the GHARP project aims to treat 2,000 HIV-positive persons and provide care and support services for up to 9,000 addition people, with an emphasis on orphans and other especially vulnerable groups.

On the GHARP project, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) is partnering with Family Health International (FHI), Cicatelli Associates Incorporated (CAI), and Howard Delafield International (HDI). As part of the GHARP project, MSH is working with the Government of Guyana to support the expansion of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment programs. MSH is currently assisting with the development of systems to manage medicines (such as the ARVs mentioned above) as well as enhancing the health management information system, responding to a increasing human resource crisis, and building management and leadership skills at all levels of the health system.

During the handover ceremony, Bullen stated that "it is critical that we support the treatment of these children so that they can have the opportunity to lead healthy and prosperous lives."

Ramsammy said he is happy that the most vulnerable people, children, can receive treatment that will permit them to live a life beyond infancy and childhood. And the best way to deal with HIV/AIDS, he added, is through partnerships like the one between the governments of the US and Guyana.

In closing, the Minister expressed his gratitude to the US government on behalf of the people of the Guyana for the drugs that will help improve the lives of HIV-infected children and their families.

It is expected that before this supply runs out, a second shipment of ARV drugs, along with medications for sexually transmitted infections and opportunistic infections, will arrive. Included in the shipment of ARV drugs are Retrovir, Epivir and Viracept.