KINGSTON — Amendments are being made to the Public Health Order so as to remove what could be regarded as discriminatory provisions relating to persons with HIV and AIDS.
This was disclosed by Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer today December 1st, during a World AIDS Day Leadership Breakfast held at the Terra Nova Hotel.
“The Ministry has completed the draft submission, which has been submitted to the relevant state entity, to fulfill the consultation requirements for legislative and/or regulatory changes,” he informed.
He noted that the amendments represent a “clear and practical demonstration of this Government’s commitment to addressing stigma and discrimination against persons infected and affected by HIV and AIDS."
The Minister acknowledged that while it will take "much more than legislative and regulatory changes to effectively reduce stigma and discrimination, Government has a moral obligation to lead and to act. Government has a fundamental responsibility to protect and safeguard the human rights of every single citizen of Jamaica. It is an indispensable role of Government".
Meanwhile the Ministries of Health; Youth Sports and Culture; and the Office of the Services Commission, launched and signed their HIV/AIDS Workplace policies, aimed at addressing discrimination, at this morning’s function. “The launch of the workplace policies this morning is a testament that we are making progress one step at a time," Mr. Spencer said.
Youth, Sports and Culture Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange, informed that in crafting the policy, a series of training and sensitisation sessions were held with staff across the Ministry, including its department and agencies.
She said that HIV awareness has become part of the staff orientation process and is an integral component of the women and youth engagement programmes.
"We are mindful that the proportion of women living with HIV has remained stable at 50 per cent globally, while in the Caribbean, 53 per cent of people living with HIV and AIDS are women. We are also mindful that the reduction of the rate of new HIV infection across the world is based in part in changes in the behaviour among young people," Miss Grange said.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles, who also addressed the gathering, commented that fear and discrimination often prevents persons from getting tested and to seek treatment.
He said that the Ministry of Labour "stands by to help all parties and make sure that we educate the workforce, because when a man loses his job because of that (HIV), it is not only the job he loses but his whole family goes without bread because he no longer can work."
"I continue to ask, let those, who have fallen to this disease, live a life within the environment and contribute to the development of our country," Mr. Charles urged.
At the end of 2010, an estimated 34 million people were living with HIV worldwide, up 17 per cent from 2001. This reflects the continued large number of new HIV infections and significant expansion of access to antiretroviral therapy, which has helped reduce AIDS-related deaths.
In the Caribbean region, new HIV infections were reduced by a third from 2001 levels. HIV incidence has decreased by an estimated 25 per cent in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica since 2001, while in Haiti it has declined by about 12 per cent.
Slowing HIV incidence and increasing access to HIV prevention services for pregnant women have led to a steep decline in the number of children newly infected with HIV and in AIDS-related deaths among children.
World AIDS Day is being celebrated today under the theme: ‘Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths’.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter