Agriculture Ministry Launches HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy


The Ministry of Agriculture today (Feb.17) launched its HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy, joining the list of Government and private sector organisations that have taken a stand against HIV/AIDS discrimination in the workplace.
The programme, through a collaborative and culturally sensitive approach, is committed to reducing the incidence and impact of HIV and AIDS, and creating a caring and supportive environment where persons infected or affected by the illnesses, are treated with compassion.
Speaking at the launch held at the Ministry’s head offices in Kingston, Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, said that given the importance of agriculture to the national economy, a sustained programme was needed to deal effectively, with HIV/AIDS, among all the stakeholders.
He noted that the Ministry was conscious of the devastating effect that HIV/AIDS can have on the farming community, pointing out that farmers affected by the disease, cannot fully contribute to sustainable agricultural development, and this would adversely affect the country’s food security.
He stated that there were many countries in Africa in which the working age population had practically disappeared, leaving persons to starve, because “there is no one to farm the land.”
Noting that the launch culminates two years of hard work in sensitising employees of the Ministry and its related agencies about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and its impact on the working world, Dr. Tufton urged members of his own staff to familiarise themselves with their roles, rights, and responsibilities, as it relates to the policy.
He also commended those who “have put a tremendous amount of effort in both conceptualising and implementing the policy”.
Principal Director, Policy co-ordination and Administration in the Ministry, Judith Maloney, informed that during the period November 29, 2006 to December 31, 2008, 57 workshops were conducted and 1,588 staff members were sensitised about the policy, while 6,300 condoms were distributed.
The Ministry of Agriculture’s workplace policy on HIV/AIDS uses the 10 International Labour Organisation (ILO) principles as its foundation. These are: the recognition of HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue; non-discrimination; gender equality; healthy work environment; social dialogue; no screening for exclusion from employment or work processes; confidentiality; continuation of employment; prevention; and care and support.
The policy encourages openness and honesty at the workplace about HIV and AIDS and deals with the stigma and discrimination associated with the conditions.
The Ministries of Labour and Social Security; Water and Housing; Finance and Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, have launched similar policies.

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