The official closure of the I-TECH office marked a successful transition and brought back many memories. “This is an emotional but exciting time,” said Michael Reyes, I-TECH Senior Director, during a small closing event in March. While there is still much work to be done, I-TECH has been pleased to be part of strengthening the local health system in Guyana. “We’ve celebrated many milestones along the way and have been thankful to have such a strong working relationship with our staff and our partners,” said Dr. Reyes. “While I-TECH is leaving Guyana, our door is still open for future collaboration.”
A History of Collaboration
I-TECH began its work in Guyana in 2004 by providing technical support to develop a national website for the Guyana Ministry of Health (MOH). The site allowed the Ministry to share information on HIV and AIDS prevention, care, and treatment, and was built with support from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Global AIDS Program (CDC GAP). Since its launch in December of 2005, the site has been the go-to hub for resources on HIV and AIDS, drawing visits from health care professionals, researchers, funders, and the national and local media. In 2007, the site received acclaim from the World Summit, a global initiative of the United Nations, who called it the “best practice example of quality e-content in the world.”
In 2005, Dr. Chuka Anude, the Chief of Party of the François Xavier Bagnoud Center (FXB) of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), Guyana office, observed that there was no national HIV strategic training plan in Guyana, no internationally standardized training for various health worker professions, and no system in place to monitor or evaluate the effectiveness of care being administered to patients. To address these issues, the MOH initiated the Guyana National Training and Coordination Center on HIV (GYNTCC). The vision was for GYNTCC to be a rallying point for continuous training and capacity-building among all the cadres of health workers involved in HIV and AIDS care in Guyana. As an FXB sub-contractor, I-TECH established full operations in Guyana that year. It was positioned to provide technical support for this initiative, and in partnership FXB and the MOH, to establish a sustainable training program on the care and treatment of people living with HIV and AIDS in Guyana.
By 2007, I-TECH was independently awarded funding to execute the GYNTCC’s goals, and began sharing office space with the MOH. This close proximity supported closer collaboration and a stronger working relationship; as the project progressed, it consistently reflected the goals of the Ministry.
While the major focus of activities was on the development of HIV/AIDS training curricula, it was also evident that, despite great dedication, many of the people responsible for training key cadres of health workers with these curricula lacked the skills necessary to effectively deliver content to adult learners. For this reason, “training of trainers” became a crucial secondary focus of the I-TECH program in Guyana, and soon evolved into a major programmatic area.
During I-TECH’s six years of operation in Guyana, the organization and local partners, working together, have trained over 3,000 health care workers in HIV and AIDS-related content using 202 different trainers and 314 training events. Of these, the GYNTCC and I-TECH have conducted over 26 trainings and reached 550 health care professionals in support of the MOH’s National Health Strategy.* These statistics highlight the magnitude of the investment Guyana has made in recent years in health care worker training to improve the quality of HIV/AIDS care and treatment available to its people.
Toward the Future
Transitioning activities to the MOH is a milestone for I-TECH and a good example of its “Partnership Model” at work. The model, which guides all of I-TECH’s activities, seeks to help strengthen health systems with the goal of transitioning programmatic work to country ownership, where it can be sustained well into the future.
During the closing ceremony on March 25, 2011, I-TECH leaders ceremoniously passed training resources and assets on to Dr. Bheri Ramsaran, Minister within the Ministry of Health Guyana. Together, Dr Ramsaran, Dr.Michael Reyes, I-TECH Senior Director, Wallis Best Plummer, I-TECH Country Director, and Nicolette Henry, CDC Programme Officer for I-TECH Guyana and the Hinterland Initiative Project celebrated the accomplishments of the program and looked toward the future. In a short speech, Dr. Reyes highlighted many of the program’s accomplishments and congratulated program partners on the great ease with which transitioning the complete scope of work to the government has occurred.
The Minister, Dr.Ramsaran reminisced on the highly responsive, professional and productive working relationships shared with successive managers of the I-TECH program in Guyana, and emphasized the continuing value of the curricula and other training materials that were created.
The final remarks were reserved for Ms. Romona Khan, I-TECH Guyana’s Technical Services Manager and the team’s longest-standing employee. With a broad smile, she reminded the group that credit for I-TECH’s broad collection of work, and for the program’s great impact, is shared with, and the result of, “the partnerships, relationships, friendships, and… multitude of organizations and individuals that have supported us individually and as a team.”
To learn more about the history of I-TECH in Guyana please visit the I-TECH Guyana page.
*Source: I-TECH’s Training System Monitoring and Reporting Tool (TrainSMART), a web-based database software package designed to record and monitor information about health care worker trainings, content, program indicators, and other information. TrainSMART is used in Guyana and around the world and by I-TECH, ministries of health, and other organizations.