JIS News

The Devon House heritage site located on Waterloo Road will be transformed into an ‘Empowerment Village’ from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on December 1, as Jamaica joins the international community in marking World AIDS Day.
The observance, under the theme: ‘Leadership for Life’, will seek to empower persons and involve national and community leaders in the fight against AIDS.
According to Senior Project Assistant for the HIV/STI Programme in the Ministry of Health, Sannia Sutherland, the best results in the fight will be achieved when there is strong leadership at the national, community and individual levels. “When someone is empowered, they are better able to make their own decisions and to defend their own choices and that will help to decrease the risk for HIV/AIDS,” she told JIS News.
Elaborating on the ‘Empowerment Village,’ Ms. Sutherland said that several organizations offering empowerment opportunities will be present such as the Jamaica Defence Force, Women’s Centre, COK Co-operative Credit Union and Jamaica AIDS Support. “We are looking at educational opportunities, employment opportunities, how to start small businesses and how to manage your money among other issues,” Ms. Sutherland explained.
Jamaica Employers’ Federation will also be on hand to provide tips on job-related issues including dressing for success, interviewing techniques and how to start small businesses.
This is in addition to at least eight interactive information booths, free voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) using the rapid HIV test and condom demonstrations and risk reduction discussions.
Issues such as speaking to your child about HIV and abstinence as well as stigma and discrimination will also be discussed at designated speaker’s corners. “We are trying to attack the HIV/AIDS problem from all angles this year,” Ms. Sutherland said.
She noted that the focus on economics is based on research, which shows that social and economic factors are two of the major driving forces behind the epidemic. “It is not just a problem of people having unprotected sex. We really have to start to look at why they are having unprotected sex .is it the dependence on a partner for money? Do persons have the skills to negotiate with somebody to use a condom? We have to start to address the economic factors that are leading people to this risky behaviour,” she pointed out.
“This is an attempt to make the linkages, and we are hoping this will make the difference. We are trying to treat with those factors, because those are some of the major reason people are risk,” she added. Ms. Sutherland said that the Ministry is also seeking to integrate all the activities organized for the ‘Empowerment Village’ in its programmes targeting school and communities throughout the year. “We try to expose the communities that we think will need interventions the most, so it is not a one shot deal,” she emphasized.
Persons, who are unable to attend the national event, are being encouraged to contact their parish health departments and Regional Health Authorities about activities in their area. UNAIDS/World Health Organisation reports that 2.9 million persons died in 2006 from AIDS, which essentially means that the equivalent of the entire population of Jamaica died in one year.
In Jamaica, the National HIV/STI Control Programme estimates that 28,000 people are living with HIV or AIDS. Of that number, approximately 60 per cent or 15,000 are not aware of their HIV positive status.

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