EIGHT hundred primary and secondary schoolchildren, together with staff of the Education Ministry and other stakeholders, are to participate in an activity on the National Cultural Centre (NCC) tarmac to mark World AIDS Day, December 1.
HIV/AIDS Focal Point within the Ministry, Ms. Janelle Sweatnam, said the December 1 programme is part of its HIV Prevention and Control Project that would see the participants forming a circle of care at 12:00 hrs. She said the gesture is symbolic of the need to offer care and support to persons living with the virus or affected by it.
One minute of silence will be observed for people in the Education Sector and loved ones who have succumbed to HIV related illnesses.
The occasion will be addressed by Education Minister Shaik Baksh and Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, as well as representatives of the three major religions and the Guyana Faith and HIV Coalition will be offering prayers for persons infected and affected by the disease.
Sweatnam said the observance begins at 10:00 h and booths will distribute care packages and showcase the various services that are available to persons infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
In addition, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), will be introducing two publications targeting primary and secondary schoolchildren.
Before the scheduled 12:30 hrs conclusion those in attendance would also receive information on the other social ills affecting young people in the society.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education joined the National Week of HIV Testing, with a plan to test 1,000 employees, students and members of the public.
The exercise was executed in tents located at its Lot 26 Brickdam building and the Government Technical Institute (GTI) on Woolford Avenue, in Georgetown, as well.
Tests at Brickdam concluded on Tuesday after two productive days of service but will continue at GTI until Friday.
Sweatnam said the activities at both sites were done with assistance from NAPS, providing those tested with HIV/AIDS pamphlets and the opportunity to view documentary films on the life of persons infected and affected by the sickness.
She said the objective of that aspect is to create behavioural change among participants, by building their awareness of the virus and its consequences.
“We want to increase people’s knowledge of ways they can enjoy a healthy lifestyle and avoid contracting the virus,” Sweatnam said.
She explained that the National Week of Testing is a prelude to the Ministry’s activities to mark the December 1 milestone.
The theme for World AIDS Day 2010 is ‘Universal Access and Human Rights’ and the occasion is to remind people that HIV has not gone away and there are many things still to be done.
Apart from the testing, the HIV/AIDS Prevention and School Health Unit within the Education Ministry has conducted several awareness sessions with second and third year pre-service and in-service trainee teachers at Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), to enlighten them on ways to respond to students infected and affected by the virus.
The findings of a recent study, on HIV-related stigma and discrimination and learning outcomes of children infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in Guyana, found that, although there is an indication of stigma and discrimination against them, it did not determine how well they will perform in school.
The survey was carried out by the Caribbean Child Development Centre (CCDC), University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Kingston Cluster Office, in collaboration with the local Ministry of Education and the UWI-HIV&AIDS Response Programme.