JIS News

The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCO) on Wednesday (June 6) launched the Tourism Sector HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy, which outlines the vision and strategies for the sector to combat HIV/AIDS and address discrimination.
The stated objectives in the policy, which was approved by Cabinet in March 2007 are: to reduce the transmission of HIV; manage and mitigate the impact of the disease in the workplace; improve access to prevention, knowledge and skills, treatment, care and support of workers living with and affected by HIV and AIDS; and reduce stigma and discrimination toward any worker known or perceived to have HIVand or AIDS.
At the launch held at the Hilton Kingston hotel, Executive Director of TPDCO, Karen Ford-Warner, called on all tourism stakeholders to implement the policy, to ensure that tourism remained a viable product.
“Jamaica, as other Caribbean countries, is sustained by tourism. The high level of interaction between visitors and tourism workers.makes the tourism sector fertile fodder for the AIDS epidemic,” she pointed out.
Describing the Caribbean as “in the eye of the AIDS storm,” she cited statistics, which showed that an estimated 27,000 people became newly infected with HIV in the Caribbean in 2006. The disease is the chief cause of death among youth between the ages of 15 to 29, and those in productive age group of 15 to 44.
Turning to the Jamaican situation, she said that data from the Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic Update, shows that between January and June 2006, there were 451 new cases of AIDS reported. Further, 196 deaths were due to AIDS in the first half of 2006.
“Against this background, it is particularly pertinent that the .policy is fully embraced and institutionally entrenched in Jamaica,” Mrs. Ford-Warner stated.
She pointed out that the TPDCO, which spearheaded the policy, has over the past four years, been driving the sensitization programmes for the tourism sector under the mandate of the Ministry of Tourism, Entertainment and Culture. “To date, over 3,000 persons including hotel workers, contract carriage operators, and water sports operators have been targeted through monthly regional sensitization sessions facilitated by TPDCo,” she informed.
In addition, the agency has been responsible for the installation of 23 condom machines in 20 hotels island-wide and on site interventions among target groups, such as attractions, craft vendors, contract carriage operators and the training of 136 tourism personnel as peer educators/trainers.
Mrs. Ford-Warner acknowledged the stakeholders, who have contributed to the drafting of the document since 2004. In the same year, it was accepted by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association and Executive Director, Horace Peterkin said that various properties have implemented a number of successful initiatives to increase awareness, encourage voluntary testing, and discourage stigmatization of workers, as set out in the policy.
Reinforcing the role the policy will play as a platform and framework from which the stakeholders can launch their individual workplace policy guidelines, Mrs. Ford-Warner predicted that the successes derived from the implementation of the strategy “will have ripple effects in other sectors, providing the impetus for subsequent interventions on a broader scale.”

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