The issue of HIV/AIDS has been a discussion topic for many persons within the workplace, as a result of the stigma and discrimination associated with this life threatening illness.
Against this background, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) has embarked on several initiatives to raise the level of awareness about HIV/AIDS in the workplace.
Programme Director for HIV/AIDS at the Ministry, Peta-Gay Pryce, tells JIS News that the Ministry has in place a Life Threatening Illness (LTI) Policy, which speaks to the basic human rights of persons living with Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS.
“The policy serves as a guideline to assist Managers to deal effectively with LTIs among employees, and also outlines the responsibilities of those employees. There is also a special focus on HIV/AIDS as one of the newest LTIs, which has specific social, cultural and economic implications,” she outlines.
Ms. Pryce explains that much of the policy guidelines on HIV/AIDS are based on the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Code of Practice.
The Code of Practice deals specifically with HIV/AIDS and the world of work, and is recognised worldwide by all countries, in response to the illness. Included in the Code are some key principles, which speak to the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS.
These include the recognition of HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue, non-discrimination, gender equality, prevention, care and support, social dialogue, a healthy work environment, as well as screening and confidentiality.
Ms. Pryce tells JIS News that the national response to the workplace began by the Ministry in 2003, in relation to the new international goals outlined by the United Nations (UN) to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS by 50 per cent by 2030.
She says the response involves all countries in the world, working together to lessen the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“We are trying to meet the new Millennium Goal, which is to reduce the spread of HIV by 50 per cent by 2015, in order to achieve the goals outlined in Vision 2030 -Jamaica’s National Development Plan,” she informs.
Vision 2030 Jamaica is the country’s first long-term national development plan, which aims at enabling Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030. It is based on a comprehensive vision: “Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.”
Miss Pryce points out that the national response is multi-faceted, so the Ministry is collaborating with the Ministry of Health to implement several HIV programmes to tackle HIV/AIDS in Jamaica.
One such programme embarked on by the Health Ministry is the ‘Pinch, Leave an Inch and Roll (PLR)’ campaign, which was launched in 2008, to educate the public about practising safe sex, which a particular emphasis on condom use.
In addition, Ms. Pryce says the Ministry of Health has created a jingle entitled, ‘Tek charge! Condom: check, HIV Test: check, Less Partners: check’, which encourages safe sex practices, to prevent STIs.
She also cites pre-post testing, currently being executed by the Labour Ministry in private and public sector companies islandwide, to determine the level of awareness in relation to basic HIV facts.
“This initiative is geared towards evoking a change in behaviour, so persons can take charge of their sex lives, to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, once they are sexually active,” she says.
Miss Pryce says the Ministry remains committed to educating the public, especially the staff, about the implications of irresponsible sexual behaviour, adding that it is the responsibility of the individual to secure his or her personal health by practising safe sex.
By Jeneva Gordon, JIS Reporter