Employers Urged to Exercise Understanding With HIV/AIDS Employees


State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, Dr. Donald Rhodd is calling on employers to exercise understanding in dealing with employees affected by HIV/AIDS, by creating a non-discriminatory work environment.
Dr. Rhodd issued the challenge during his address at the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) Wide Area Training of HIV/AIDS Response in CARICOM and Central America, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, yesterday (June 14).
The State Minister pointed out that employers should exercise professionalism in dealing with HIV testing. “The issues of confidentiality and disclosure must be treated with care. Providing equitable employee benefits, dealing with dismissal and managing grievance procedures are also very important,” he said.
Dr. Rhodd said that HIV was the most challenging, devastating and worrying social, economic and health condition in the world. The pandemic, he said, was a global emergency, which killed 8,000 human beings every day, which translated into 5 persons dying every minute from HIV/AIDS.
He reported that at the end of 2003, 430,000 persons were living with HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean and of that number, 52,000 were new cases. Also, of the 430,000 persons, Jamaica accounted for 22,000, of which 10,000 were women. During January to December 2003 in the Caribbean, it was estimated that 35,000 deaths occurred, with 900 of these occurring in Jamaica.
“Our response must include greater partnership and co-operation of all individuals and organizations working to combat HIV/AIDS. The wellness of our people is a priority for our government,” Dr. Rhodd emphasized.
He said the Wide Area Training would increase the momentum with which the issue of capacity building was treated, as well as to share best practices in dealing with this deadly pandemic.
“The impact of this virus on our social fabric, particularly on our economies, have been devastating and can even undermine the actions and the projects leading to the well-being of our populations, if we do not treat this issue with urgency,” he said, adding that the significant steps already taken were not enough for the magnitude of the problem.
“It is imperative that we move to another phase adopting programmes that entail multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional responses that translate our understanding that poverty, unemployment and likewise relations are behind the spread of the disease,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nobuhiro Kumagai, Resident Representative from JICA said one of the main functions of the organization was to dispatch Japan Overseas Co-operation Volunteers (JOCV). He said Jamaica received its first volunteers in 1989 and since then more than 250 volunteers have been dispatched to Jamaica.
“These volunteers have worked in many different fields, especially education, in order to facilitate co-operation in the country’s economic and social development,” he explained, adding that these volunteers assisted the Ministry in disseminating HIV prevention education throughout the island’s schools. “In addition, their presence has doubled the capacity of the Ministry’s HIV/AIDS response team,” he said.
Mr. Kumagai pointed out that one of JICA’s primary area of co-operation was HIV prevention and as such, JICA introduced its Global Issues Initiative in 1994, on Population and AIDS. This, he said was an attempt by JICA to establish a more comprehensive HIV/AIDS plan in collaboration with other agencies, such as the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
He said that JICA recognized the importance of HIV prevention programmes to the region. “The Caribbean region has the second highest prevalence of HIV in the world, and prevention programmes such as this are a viable way of reducing the rates of infection,” he said, adding that JICA was committed to helping the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture to expand and strengthen their programme.

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