In its message on World AIDS Day observed on December 1, 2018, the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS said there is a critical need for laboratory improvements.PANCAP Director Dereck SpringerThe organisation pointed out, “We must bring into the spotlight the critical need for laboratory improvements and increased coverage in our Region. We need more laboratory facilities, including those led by the communities themselves, to know our status. We need laboratories to confirm community-led HIV screening tests. We need laboratories and point-of-care diagnostic systems to monitor our viral loads and healthcare providers who are trained to provide clinical management for HIV-related illnesses”.It added that while testing for the disease is important, it is impossible to get persons tested without the necessary kits, diagnostic equipment and the right human resources.“When we talk about placing 90 per cent of people who are HIV positive on treatment and retaining them on treatment we must also ensure that we do not have stock-outs of key drugs. How can we be taken seriously when we encourage people to be tested and then fail to provide uninterrupted treatment? How can we fail to respond to people living with HIV when sometimes drugs are not available and people become anxious because their healthcare provider had stressed the importance of adherence to treatment and the impact of non-adherence on their health, including the potential for drug resistance?”The body further stated that it is fully aware of the fact that if it is serious about getting people to know their status, it must move beyond the rhetoric to decisive actions to demonstrate that it understands the full implication of what it means to move someone who tests HIV positive to sustained viral suppression.“We must guarantee good quality laboratory testing and laboratory services, uninterrupted treatment and monitoring within our healthcare system,” the Health agency noted.On another note, it was acknowledged that the justice system needs to be reformed to enable persons who suffer discrimination to obtain redress in a timely manner. This initiative, PANCAP said, would require the engagement and involvement of various Ministries as well as Attorney Generals among others.“I call upon our governments and all who can make this happen to take the necessary actions to create an enabling environment in which people who want to know their status can come forward with the knowledge that they will not be treated differently, and that if they test positive they will be provided with the treatment, care and support they need to enjoy good quality lives and achieve viral suppression. Only then can we get them to know their status and begin the journey towards ending AIDS as a public health threat in the Caribbean,” it added.This year World AIDS Day was held under the theme ‘Know your status’.
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While some vendors are welcoming the ongoing rehabilitative works at La Penitence Market, others are lambasting the Communities Ministry for conducting works to benefit itself and not the vendors.The upper flat of the building is currently being rehabilitatedOn Tuesday, Guyana Times visited the market when one vendor, M Chunilall, explained that the rehabilitation commenced last week on the administrative section of the Market, in the upper flat which functions as a revenue collection department.The stallholder described the works as “disappointing” given that other sections of the Market were in dire need of repairs as well.He said, “They doing the rehabilitation for their purpose; they are not doing it for the stallholders…the office didn’t need all of that repairs”.Further, the vendor pointed to the roofs on the structure which he claims leak copiously when it rains. As a result, the businessman said he was forced to purchase zinc sheets to have his section made leak-proof as the dripping water caused customers to turn away from his stall.“We as stallholders like we don’t have no rights. All what we have the right for is just to pay a rent. When water leaks there, if I have a customer here they can’t stay there, they have to move away so when rain falling, I am being affected. The whole place becomes flood up. I got to close and go home. No business!” the man declared.Communities MinisterRonald BulkhanAlthough vendors are forced to pack up and leave whenever they are affected by leaks, he said they are still required to pay the rental fees.Another vendor who asked to remain anonymous explained that the Market has not had any rehabilitative works for about 15 years. As such, he believes it is a step in the right direction.Meanwhile, Lalta Narine, a clothes vendor, said he was pleased with the works, especially since it has been in an appalling state for quite some time now. But, another male vendor complained of slow business.In fact, it was observed that several stalls were closed during the visit. The vendors are hopeful that the much-needed repairs to the facility will attract more customers in the near future.The renovation was confirmed on Monday by Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine during a brief interview.It is not clear at this point whether the entire structure will undergo a facelift or just the administrative department as calls to the Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan went unanswered.Meanwhile, on Monday, Pamela Khelawan, a vendor, told Guyana Times that rats have infested the Market given that there was no proper waste disposal system.The merchant is hopeful that better utility services can be provided once the area is completely revamped, as clean water supply and stable electrical units were lacking, making it somewhat difficult to sell produce and other merchandise.Back in April, projects were tendered for four markets to be upgraded. La Penitence was on the list, with some $14 million set aside to commence the works.The other structures expecting a facelift are the Kitty, Bourda and East Ruimveldt Markets.