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JIS News

The Ministry of Health this morning today (Sept. 15) launched an HIV anti-stigma campaign, which is aimed at reducing the discrimination that is associated with the disease.
The campaign dubbed: ‘Getting on with Life’ will involve the use of television and radio advertisements, posters and billboards, to combat discrimination. Two HIV-positive Jamaicans, Annesha Taylor and Ainsley Reid, have bravely come forward to participate in the campaign and will speak publicly about their experiences living with the disease.
“The anti-stigma campaign will be supported by a public relations programme offering an opportunity to hear from Annesha and Ainsley, their stories and how they have come to terms living with HIV,” informed Professor Peter Figueroa, Chief of Epidemiology and AIDS in the Ministry of Health, at the launch of the campaign at the Hilton Kingston hotel.
He noted that the campaign represented an important milestone in Jamaica’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“Jamaicans must understand that the growing number of persons living with HIV and AIDS are real people with families, friends, co-workers and neighbours. These persons are like you and me, who have their lives to live, and wish to do so free from the stigma of HIV and free from any discrimination that may arise due to their HIV status,” he stated.
Professor Figueroa noted that while the stigma associated with the disease had declined over the years, many persons were still afraid to disclose their status.
“I am encouraging persons, who are living with HIV, to disclose their status to more friends and co-workers. All of us have a responsibility to make our community and workplace supportive of persons living with HIV,” he stated.
It is estimated that over 25,000 Jamaicans are living with the HIV virus and of this amount, 15,000 persons are not aware of their positive HIV status. Persons living with HIV can live healthy lives for many years.
Meanwhile, the government, through the National HIV/AIDS Control Programme, is providing antiretroviral treatment to some 2,000 Jamaicans living with AIDS. “This represents approximately 50 per cent of persons in need of treatment. On average, 100 new patients are put on treatment each month. Most of the persons, who need treatment, but are not on it, do not know they are HIV infected,” Professor Figueroa pointed out.
Miriam Maluwa, Country Representative for the Joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said that the campaign was important in addressing the stigma and discrimination faced by people with HIV/AIDS.
“We know all too well that the fear of stigma and discrimination often prevents people from seeking treatment for AIDS or from admitting their HIV status publicly. People with HIV may be turned away from healthcare services, educational institutions, employment, or refused entry to foreign countries,” she pointed out.
The campaign will be funded through grants from the Global Fund for HIV and AIDS.