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Govt HIV/Aids agency a hasty PR stunt—Browne
Former technical director of the National Aids Co-ordinating Committee (NACC) Dr Amery Browne is knocking Government’s interim HIV/Aids Agency, branding it a hasty public-relations stunt. He said the agency was launched to perform the same functions as the disbanded NACC.
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Rodger Samuel launched the agency on Tuesday at Hilton Trinidad in Port-of-Spain. Browne, the MP for Diego Martin Central, also criticised the Government for dragging its feet in dealing with HIV/Aids. “While I am pleased that the Government says it is finally taking steps to co-ordinate a national HIV initiative, it must be recognised that their actual approach to the issue has been tardy and unintelligent,” he said.
“This Government disbanded the NACC in March 2011, and since then almost two years have elapsed. Now they claim to be putting an interim committee in place to do virtually the same functions that the NACC was already performing,” Browne said. He said this “foolish approach” had resulted in the loss of valuable time, important institutional memory and capacity, and also meant that there could be no proper handing-over from the disbanded committee to this new committee.
“Now, a few weeks before Carnival, they have hastily put together an event that is almost identical to the one held in 2004 to launch the NACC,” he said. “It is as if they have rewound the calendar by nine years, for no good reason, and now this new committee will have to get started and to build capacity and to compile data and try to make up for lost time.”
During his address at the agency’s launch, Samuel said a true picture of the HIV/Aids population in T&T would never be known because statistics from private health facilties were kept confidential. But neither the Ministry of Health nor the Government could make it mandatory for private health facilties to reveal their HIV/Aids statistics, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said yesterday.
This had to be addressed via legislation, he said, but implementing such a law could result in negative consequences, as people would refuse to be tested. “We can’t put in place such legislation right now. We have to concentrate more on educating people, because once they realise their information would go into a database which is accessed by a public institution, they would be reluctant to be tested,” Khan said.
“We as a country have not got to the point where having HIV/Aids is no big deal, there is still a lot of shame associated with having the disease.” He said it was tragic that people were still shunned by their families and friends once they tested positive. Worldwide discussions, Khan added, are taking place with the World Health Organizations (WHO) and various health stakeholders on whether such a policy should be mandated by governments.
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