JIS News

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, the Honourable Olivia Grange, MP has said that HIV/AIDS is a gender issue.
Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the National HIV/AIDS Workplace policy, Minister Grange said:
“It (HIV/AIDS) affects our women and our men, our young and our old; in essence it affects the very fabric of our family structure. In this context, it is important for us to have an understanding of the unequal socio-economic, political and cultural factors and the differential impact that HIV/AIDS has on men and women.”
Minister Grange, who has portfolio responsibility for Women’s Affairs and Gender Issues, said the Policy had critical implications for productivity, profitability and performance in the workplace and for overall national development.
The Minister commended the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the stakeholders for the work that they had done to develop the National Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS. She said she was happy that the policy was tabled in Parliament today, during Safer Sex Week being observed under the theme “Smart Women always buy, carry and use condoms”.
According to Minister Grange:
“Adolescent females in the age group 10-19 have nearly three times higher risk of HIV infection. Young women in the 15-24 age group are also more likely to contract HIV/AIDS.”
Minister Grange told the Parliament that in 2006 it was estimated that half a million people in the Caribbean were living with HIV/AIDS, and that it was the leading cause of death among adults between 15 and 44 years old. “In Jamaica, it is estimated that about 27,000 men and women were living with HIV up to December 2008, accounting for an adult prevalence rate of about 1.6%,” she said.
The Minister said there were systemic and cultural issues to be addressed within and outside of the workplace.
“For example, there is a big cultural difference in attitudes towards men’s and women’s sexuality before or outside of marriage. Promiscuity in men is often condoned and encouraged, while it is frowned upon in women. Women are often less able to negotiate safe sex due to economic dependence and fear of violence and therefore are more likely to contract HIV infection. Sexually transmitted infections (STI) in women are less noticeable due to their biological make-up and often go undiagnosed. Women and girls tend to bear the burden of caring for sick family members, and often have less care and support when they themselves are infected.
“Taking gender into account will help to successfully address the HIV/AIDS pandemic when designing policy. This will promote the development of options to accommodate sex and gender differences. This is why it is imperative that gender not only be mentioned in the glossary of terms but that there be gender mainstreaming in the development and implementation of the National Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS.”
Minister Grange said the National HIV/AIDS Policy was significant and would provide the framework for action to address stigma and discrimination of employees in their working environment as well as to address the general management of HIV/AIDS guidelines, principles and practices in the workplace.
She said it would provide the starting point for workplaces to put in place comprehensive programmes that would integrate prevention, care and the protection of the rights of employees, regardless of their HIV status.
Minister Grange said the implementation of the National Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS would create a healthy work environment and advance gender equality.