JIS News

State Minister for Education, Youth and Culture, Dr. Donald Rhodd, has said that the Ministry’s National Policy for HIV/AIDS Management in Schools was intended to protect the rights of all students and staff to remain within schools, irrespective of their real or perceived HIV status.
The State Minister was speaking today (March 10) at the launch of the National Policy for the Management of HIV/AIDS in Schools Debating Competition at the Knutsford Court Hotel.
He said that the Ministry has been implementing the policy in schools islandwide, through the establishment of school-based health advisory committees and the process involved sensitisation about HIV/AIDS issues, sexuality and values clarification, and interaction with persons living with the disease.
“The process takes about six months, with regional Health Promotion Specialists working with members of the Health Advisory Committees in drafting and executing a unique action plan following their formal introduction to the policy”, Dr. Rhodd explained. The critical areas covered in the action plan include ongoing education on sexuality and HIV/AIDS and stigma and discrimination.
Other initiatives being pursued to heighten HIV/AIDS in schools include a review of HIV/AIDS materials such as children’s stories, young adult novels, comics and teachers guides, to inform, educate and communicate to the young target audience.
“The review has informed the outfitting of the Jamaica Library Service’s mobile library unit with HIV/AIDS information in a form that is more accessible and appropriate for young readers,” Dr. Rhodd explained.
Furthermore, he disclosed that the Ministry had trained 27 guidance counsellors in voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), with the objective of providing these counsellors with the necessary skills to promote HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infection risk reduction among teenagers.
The State Minister pointed out further, that the implementation of the VCT skills would be monitored through reports on the number of clients, who are counselled, referred for testing, and other social services.
The eight key principles of the National Policy for the Management of HIV/AIDS in Schools are: non discrimination and equality; no justification for HIV screening to deny admission or disallow continued attendance; HIV-positive students have the right and are expected to attend educational institutions in accordance with statutory requirements as long as they are able to do so; and no one is compelled to disclose his/her HIV status to the institution or employer although voluntary disclosure is encouraged, and an enabling environment should be cultivated to facilitate this disclosure.
In addition, all schools and institutions should have a continuing Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) Programme, which includes an HIV/AIDS programme; a safe institutional environment where universal precautions are observed for all blood-borne pathogens; prevention measures for those at risk; and the opportunity for behaviour modification should be provided.

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