JIS News

Safer Sex Week will be observed from February 12 – 17, under the theme, ‘Know your HIV Status: Get tested’.
This year’s focus comes in light of the fact the HIV/AIDS epidemic has reached a critical point, whereby 15,000 of the estimated 22,000 persons infected with the disease, are not aware of their status.
Novia Condell, Behaviour Change Communication Officer at the Ministry of Health told JIS News that there was an urgent need for persons to know their HIV status, in order to be able to manage their HIV positive result and live a healthy lifestyle, even when affected by the disease.
“We also need persons, who are negative to do what they must in order to stay negative. This is what is being impressed on the public during safer sex week,” she stressed.
During the week, she said, persons should take the time to reassess their lifestyle and risk situation. The first step in this process, Ms. Condell expounded, was to get tested.
Ms. Condell further noted that the observation of the special week, which included Valentine’s Day (February 14), was no coincidence.
“We want people, who are spending time with their partners and also thinking of having intimate moments with them to really consider the issue of safer sex and to know that regardless of how young or old their relationship is, there is a need to have discussions about safer sex,” she explained.
Meanwhile, the week of events will extend beyond the boundaries of Kingston and St. Andrew.
Across the island, there will be several activities at the parish level including public events. Persons are being encouraged to contact their parish health departments for further information on the activities for the week.
The major highlight of the week is the national activity, a safer sex exposition, dubbed “Sex in the City,” which will take place on February 16 at Devon House, beginning at 10:00 a.m.
“We are going to have lots of information on safer sex. This is not only in terms of condoms but also we plan to look at deeper issues such as abstinence and other options. We will also raise the issue of condom use while married,” she informed.
Ms. Condell promised that the expo would be “extremely interactive” and interesting, with more than 30 organisations participating and also an entertainment package included. HIV testing will also be available at the venue.
Safer-Sex Week has been very effective in promoting responsible behaviour. It was first started in 1994 because the Ministry of Health saw the need for increased emphasis on the message of protection during sexual activity. By dedicating a week of activities, the Ministry has been able to reach a large number of people with the message of safer sex.
“It is purely a Jamaican observance, but it is something that persons are excited about so the interest has grown over the years,” Ms. Condell stated.
Indeed, the interest has grown, so much so that more private sector entities have come onboard to provide support. Ms. Condell added that over the years, the number of persons enquiring about the week and related material has grown immensely.
“The feedback has really been good and we feel that this indicates that we are creating that awareness out there,” she pointed out.