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  • Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, says efforts to eliminate the discrimination and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS will only yield success when those most in need of medical care.
  • Mrs. Simpson Miller noted that, in Jamaica, there is acknowledgement and recognition that the approach to reducing the prevalence of HIV-AIDS “cannot be business as usual”.
  • She informed that the Government has “taken some important decisions” in this regard.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, says efforts to eliminate the discrimination and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS will only yield success when those most in need of medical care, support, and treatment, can access these without fear of victimization and ridicule.

She emphasised this point in a speech delivered by Justice Minister, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, during Wednesday’s (April 9) opening ceremony for the three-day Caribbean Consultation on Justice for All and Human Rights Agenda, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston.

Mrs. Simpson Miller noted that, in Jamaica, there is acknowledgement and recognition that the approach to reducing the prevalence of HIV-AIDS “cannot be business as usual”.  She informed that the Government has “taken some important decisions” in this regard.

These, the Prime Minister outlined, include: integrating sexual and reproductive health services; and establishing an Integrated National Strategic Plan for Sexual and Reproductive Health, including HIV/AIDS.

Additionally, she said the treatment agenda has been advanced with special emphasis on the provision of affordable medication; the budgetary allocation for HIV/AIDS health care service provisions increased; and mechanisms put in place to curtail the “intractable” issues of stigma and discrimination, adding that resources have been channeled “to support our prioritization (initiatives).”

“In Jamaica, we continue to enjoy strong bi-partisan support for our 2011 Declaration of Commitment to end stigma and discrimination, and gender inequality affecting the HIV and AIDS response. We have strengthened our collaboration with faith-based organisations, in particular, as we recognise the need to embrace and assist our brothers and sisters, even more, in times of struggle,” Mrs. Simpson Miller stated.

The Prime Minister pointed out that Jamaica was the first Caribbean country to undertake a sustainability study in relation to its National HIV Programme. The study was conducted by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).

“I want to thank UNAIDS and the World Bank for the support they provided to the PIOJ to conduct this study. We are very grateful for the support of our partners in advancing our HIV response. This augurs well for Jamaica and the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) network, which has been so vital to the successes we have, so far, achieved,” Mrs. Simpson Miller stated.

The three-day consultation is being staged from April 9 to 11 by PANCAP in collaboration with the Government of Jamaica; the University of the West Indies (UWI); and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM), under the theme: ‘Advancing Justice for All and the Human Rights Agenda’.

Over 90 participants from Jamaica and other countries, who are attending the forum, will deliberate issues pertaining to advancing the human rights agenda in the Caribbean. Key among these are issues viewed as restrictive to the successful implementation of the Caribbean’s response to HIV and AIDS.

The Justice for All Programme, coordinated by PANCAP, is an advocacy platform, aimed at increasing awareness around HIV-related stigma and discrimination and their impact on access to prevention or treatment services.

The programme is being coordinated under the patronage of St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, and United Nations Secretary-General Envoy for HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean, Professor Edward Greene.

The consultations ultimately aim to: develop a PANCAP Roadmap for the reduction of HIV-related stigma; eliminate discrimination; and increase national HIV responses by creating a facilitative environment, and removing discriminatory laws and practices.