JIS News

Minister of Health, John Junor has said that the process to develop a National HIV/AIDS Policy was part of efforts by the government to provide a legislative framework to deal with HIV/AIDS at a national level.
Minister Junor was speaking at a press conference held yesterday (May 10), at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel to launch the draft policy and to kick off a series of island wide consultations on the document.
According to Mr. Junor, the policy, which has been developed through the collaborative efforts of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Jamaica Employers Federation, the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, should be tabled in Parliament shortly.
Funded through a loan agreement between the government of Jamaica and the World Bank, the National HIV/AIDS Policy’s primary objectives are: to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS; decrease the socio-economic impact of the disease; increase access to treatment, care and support; reduce stigma and discrimination; and to prepare the Jamaican society to amend and pass laws related to HIV/AIDS.
“It addresses the reduction of the number of new HIV infections through a supportive environment that promotes responsible sexual behaviour; facilitates behaviour change and communication strategies and interventions, including targeted interventions with commercial sex workers, with men who have sex with men, and with the prison population,” he further informed.
The document also promotes mutual monogamy, consistent condom use, voluntary counselling and testing, and other strategies to reduce HIV transmission including anti-stigma and anti-discrimination interventions.
According to the Minister, the policy also addresses the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS on persons infected with the disease, as well as their families and communities, “by encouraging the development of needs assessment at the sectoral, labour force and workplace levels”.
“It will cater to the needs of the employees, including those infected and affected, through special intervention such as reasonable accommodation, and the promotion of home-based care through family, and community-based and faith-based organisations,” Mr. Junor said further.
The Health Minister urged that all Jamaicans to take an interest in programmes aimed at eradicating the disease and in ensuring that the targets of “providing access to treatment, care and support; protecting the rights of Jamaicans, in particular those vulnerable to and living with HIV/AIDS; and eliminating the major obstacles for stigma and discrimination, are achieved.”
In her address, the Caribbean United Nations AIDS Senior Adviser for Law and Human Rights, Miriam Maluwa, lauded the Jamaican government for its efforts to develop a National HIV/AIDS Policy.
She said that the experience with other parts of the world, was that after the adoption of a national policy, “governments have moved to undertake specific legislative reforms and the adoption of anti discrimination laws covering areas such as health, education, employment, goods and services.”
The UNAIDS Adviser pointed out that HIV-related legislative reforms provided a basis for individuals and organisations to press home their action and demands for change.
“Without legislation, a right cannot be claimed. Without a claim, a right cannot be realised and a right is worthless unless it can be realised,” she argued.
She noted further, that an effective HIV response came when people claimed and exercised their rights, and resisted exclusion and marginalisation.
“The policy that the government of Jamaica is launching is an essential framework for a balanced and appropriate legal reform,” Miss Maluwa stated.

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