KINGSTON — Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, on July 6 launched the Jamaica Business Council on HIV/AIDS (JaBCHA) National Foundation at the Wyndham Kingston hotel.
A private sector initiative established with support from the United States (US) Government, the foundation will assist national efforts to increase access to health care and garner financial resources to sustain the response to HIV/AIDS. JABCHA has been partnering with the Ministry of Health through the National HIV/STI Programme, to address the disease.
The Governor-General, who is patron for the Foundation, said the launch is a “step in the right direction” to ensure that the effort to fight HIV/AIDS is sustainable.
He contended that HIV/AIDS is not just an individual problem, but is a national concern, noting that research has shown that the productive sector can be adversely affected due to absenteeism.
“The private sector therefore, has a real cause and reason to play its part in effectively managing this disease,” he said.
The Governor-General commended JaBCHA for launching the foundation, noting that with more than 50,000 persons with HIV/AIDS, and the epidemic estimated to cost over US$200 million, the organisation “has an awesome responsibility on its shoulders to ensure that the epidemic is contained”.
“I note that the Council has been funded to the tune of some $80 million in the past by global donors. With the current financial crisis, one can understand the real possibility that these funds will be reduced, and possibly end. I commend the Council for being proactive in countering the possibility of not being able to continue the excellent job that it has been doing with the national treatment and prevention programme,” he added.
The Governor-General said that while focus is placed on prevention and treatment, there is a lot of work to be done to remove the stigma associated with the disease through sensitisation. “There is need to make more persons aware that individuals, who are suffering from the disease are in need of emotional support, and in many cases, there is also the need for financial support,” he stated.
He thanked the US Ambassador to Jamaica, Her Excellency Pamela Bridgewater for the tremendous support and interest that she has taken in the foundation.
Ambassador Bridgewater, in her remarks, described the foundation as a “lifesaving and life changing undertaking”, and encouraged stakeholders to “to buy in to JaBCHA’s National Foundation with your generous support”.
She thanked stakeholders, who have worked passionately in many arenas including assisting people living with HIV/AIDS. “Your work with creative youth interventions, mass media campaigns and expanded access to counsellingand testing have helped Jamaica to maintain a prevalence rate of 1.7 per cent,” she said.
The Ambassador further reaffirmed the US Mission’s commitment to HIV/AIDS awareness, treatment and eradication of stigma.
Founded in 2006, JaBCHA was established to facilitate a structured and coordinated response, by the leadership of Jamaican businesses, to mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS, eradicating HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination at the workplace and contributing to the eradication of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica.
By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter