JIS News

Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, said on (Oct. 3) that the prudish notion that sexuality and sex education must be hidden from children, should be dispensed with, as this leads to myths and miseducation about the subject.
Mr. Golding made the call during his opening address at the Sixth Annual Chiefs of Mission Conference on HIV/AIDS at the Terra Nova Hotel.
He said that while public education is important and has become a part of the culture as it relates to HIV/AIDS, the awareness campaign should not just be from the top down, but should instead be a collaborative approach involving the family, school, home, and the community, in order to “effectively inoculate ourselves from the damage of this disease”.
The Prime Minister said that although the implementation of policy is important to address matters such as health care and screening, combating the pandemic requires discipline. He stressed that HIV/AIDS can be controlled “if we exercise care in a personal way,” as it is not an environmental disease.
Mr. Golding noted that the Caribbean has the second highest incidence of AIDS prevalence, with 250,000 people living with the disease in the region, and 19,000 deaths were recorded for 2006. He pointed out that Jamaica’s infection rate is in the mid-range of most countries, at 1.5 per cent, totaling some 40,000 Jamaicans.
Mr. Golding said the efforts to tackle the pandemic can never be overemphasized, and requires a coordinated, collaborative approach, given the migratory nature of the disease. He applauded the assistance over the years from multilateral agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Bank, in helping countries to combat the disease.
Jamaica has secured just under $3 billion in HIV/AIDS assistance and through Pan-Caribbean partnership, has been able to synergize policies with those of other countries, the Prime Minister told the gathering.
Meanwhile, United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Brenda LaGrange Johnson, said finding common ground on how to beat HIV/AIDS is “the right thing to do”.
She said the disease has an unparalleled impact on national security, social behaviour, education, and migration. “The fragile public health infrastructures are pushed beyond capacity by this disease. The epidemic is cutting the supply of labour, threatening the livelihood of many workers,” she lamented.
Mrs. LaGrange Johnson informed that the conference would discuss perspectives and opportunities for ambassadors to use their position to advocate for HIV/AIDS programmes; review successes and lessons learned in HIV/AIDS programming in the region; and inform the ambassadors and chiefs of mission about the assistance available from the United States.