JIS News

The National HIV/STI Programme has unveiled its new HIV anti-stigma campaign, with two HIV-positive Jamaicans coming forward to reveal their HIV status and to participate in the national effort, which aims to end the discrimination associated with the disease.
Jason Richards and Mrs. Rosemarie Stone were today (November 24) presented as the new faces of the ‘Yes You Can’ anti-stigma campaign, which was launched at Jamaica House in Kingston.
The campaign’s theme: ‘Yes I Can…Support Someone Living With HIV/AIDS’, is aimed at getting Jamaicans to change their behaviour towards persons living with the disease.
Director of HIV Prevention at the Ministry, Ms. Lovette Byfield, informed that the media campaign will comprise two sets of radio, print and television advertisements as well as billboards. In addition, as Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), Mr. Richards and Mrs. Stone will participate in workshops in various communities, workplaces, at expos, schools, parenting sessions as well as avail themselves for media interviews.
Ms. Byfield noted that the interface with the various groups will help to add credibility to the media campaign so that Jamaicans will know that the persons they see in the ads are not actors but real people living with the disease.
Mr. Richards, who is 23 years old, tested positive for HIV five years ago and said that the support from his family and friends has helped him to stay positive. He said that they helped to influence his decision to join the national campaign.
“Overall, I was like ‘Yuh sure yuh want to go ahead and do it?’ and they were like ‘Jason if yuh get cold feet just call we, we will (be there) to do all the little things dem for you’,” he recalled.
For her part, Mrs. Stone said it was a privilege to be one of the faces of the campaign. Though Mrs. Stone has already told her experiences with the disease in her book, ‘No Stone Unturned’, she said she hoped her participation in the national campaign would help to raise the level of support for persons living with the virus.
“This means to me, my friends and family will continue to talk to me and sit down and have a meal from me, persons won’t be afraid to sit beside me or hug me, my immediate family and friends will continue to stick beside me no matter what,” she said.
Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, in an address delivered by Head of the HIV/STI Programme, Dr. Kevin Harvey, congratulated Mrs. Stone and Mr. Richards for their “courage and determination” in stepping forward and making such a significant contribution to the campaign to end stigma and discrimination.
“You have faced down hostility, ridicule, isolation and ignorance in your families and communities and in so doing, you have given many persons, who are infected and affected a fighting chance,” he noted.
Mr. Spencer added that he was heartened by a study carried out in 2008, which shows that 82.8 per cent of the Jamaican population is willing to care for a family member, who becomes sick with the virus, up from 78 per cent in 2004.
The anti-stigma campaign was first launched in 2006, with Ms. Annesha Taylor and Mr. Ainsley Reid as the faces of the campaign. The two were also in attendance at today’s launch which doubled as the launch for World AIDS Day, which will be observed on December 1.

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