Video News Release
Guyana: Loggers Learn about HIV/AIDS Prevention
Guyana, a country with a population of around 750,000 has an HIV prevalence of 2.5 per cent in the age group of 15-49 which accounts for 52 per cent of the country's population. The epidemic in Guyana is considered generalized, and it is mainly a heterosexual epidemic. Despite the encouraging signs with regard to reducing HIV prevalence among most-at-risk populations, there is still much to do to tackle the problem of scant awareness of HIV/AIDS. That's why the Government of Guyana, through strong partnerships with employers and workers organizations are trying to increase the number of people being counselled and tested. Thanks to the support of the ILO, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL), the US President Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and additional resources from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), HIV/AIDS workplace education and prevention programmes are now reaching even the most remote areas of the country.
Kwakwani town is located deep in the heart of Guyana’s timber region. Getting there is a day long boat ride down the Berbice River. Loggers work in extremely isolated areas separated from their families for long periods of time. Hours are long and recreation is limited to an occasional basketball game or a night in the local bar where loggers may engage in behavior that increase their risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Carlon Causwi has been working as a logger for over five years. He received education on HIV and AIDS, but is still not yet aware of his status.
Carlon Causwi, Logger (in English)
Well I am not really scared of being HIV positive but if I got it I will not be comfortable with myself and around friends.
In Guyana, 80 per cent of HIV infections are within the ages of 20 to 49, affecting the very heart of the country’s labour force. Against this background the International Labour Organization is partnering with the Government, employers and workers organizations to develop and implement workplace policies and programmes on HIV and AIDS.
Sean Wilson, National Project Coordinator ILOAIDS Guyana (in English)
We have been able to reach more than 50 work places. Most of them have a work place policy. They’ve got peer educators trained. They’ve got people trained in peer counseling and I think it augurs well for the future for our country in responding to the HIV AIDS in the work place.
HIV Counselling and Testing services are provided for free in the country but reaching the loggers working deep in the forest is no easy task.
The disease remains largely misunderstood amongst the loggers who fear the stigma and discrimination that may come from knowing their status.
Carlon Causwi, Logger (in English)
I don’t think the boss would be comfortable around me, so I fear I might lose my job.
Employers have also been sensitized to avoid discrimination on the basis of real or perceived HIV status of workers and to recognize the importance of workplace prevention programmes for the benefit of the workforce and the enterprise’s productivity.
Cort Simeon, Employer (in English)
Being HIV positive would not prevent somebody from working with me.
HIV incidence in Guyana is under decline as the prevention and treatment campaign gathers pace. The government views workplace programmes as a gateway not only to reach workers and their families but also to the clients of sex workers and the larger community.
Manzoor Nadir, Minister for Labour, Guyana (in English)
These partnerships have certainly been invaluable to Guyana. They need to be continued because very easily if we don’t continue with education programmes, testing programmes, the programmes that encourage safe lifestyles… then there is great chance you can see a mushrooming again of prevalence in our society.
Guyana is proof that strong partnerships among governments, employers and workers are key to a winning strategy for HIV AIDS prevention policies.