JIS News

Minister of Health, John Junor has said that HIV/AIDS could no longer be seen as merely a health problem, but also a development issue, as it comprised the rate at which any country could progress.
The Minister, who was addressing the World AIDS Day breakfast this morning (Dec.1) at the Hilton Kingston Hotel, pointed out that HIV/AIDS had proved to be a development barrier in Jamaica as it was impacting human welfare, productivity, life expectancy and undermining economic stability. He said HIV/AIDS was also leaving orphans and school dropouts behind as parents and teachers die, thus contributing to poverty.
“The hard-earned progress of this small island state is being painfully erased, and the future is also being jeopardized by the death of children,” he said, noting that Jamaica was yet to achieve a significant decline in the rate of infection as its Caribbean counterparts such as Barbados, Bahamas and Bermuda.
“If therefore, we are to succeed in the fight against HIV, we must recognize that progress in this fight requires the involvement of all persons, across all sectors,” the Minster said, while calling for a change of attitude as it related to sex and high-risk cultural practices, as well as reducing HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.
He said that health centres, church groups and community development programmes, were viable channels for condom dispensation, and were resourceful for their provision of information on sexually transmitted infections, blood safety issues, among other things.
Stating that the church had a key role to play in the fight against the disease, Mr. Junor said, “the challenge for the church is for leaders to change their attitudes to one of addressing a harsh reality that has devastating ramifications.”
“It is time for church leaders to take on a bigger responsibility for their congregations, and not shy away from a mission that may involve harmonizing conflicting religious, moral and social values,” he added.
Turning to the issue of discrimination in the workplace, Minister Junor said that private sector leaders have a duty to create a supportive and safe environment in the workplace for people with HIV. “It is not enough simply to develop policies regarding HIV/AIDS in the workplace. It is also necessary to mount a programme of action that will inform staff about the policies and the principles behind the policies; deal with issues that often arise around HIV/AIDS; dispel myths and fallacies about HIV/AIDS and provide clear direction on how to combat discrimination toward people with HIV,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister noted that the government had made the relevant technical and financial resources available through a US$15 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the period 2002 to 2006, and a US$23 million grant from the Global Fund for 2004/2008.
Several political representatives including Opposition Leader Bruce Golding, as well as some mayors, signed a commitment to advocate and effect changes for persons affected by HIV/AIDS.

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