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KINGSTON — Over 40 representatives from government ministries, departments and agencies non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civic groups participated in a one-day partnership building workshop on Friday August 12, at the Shirley Retreat Hotel, Kingston.

The workshop, which focused on issues such as human rights, gender and HIV and AIDS, was hosted by the National HIV/STI Programme (NHP) in the Ministry of Health.

It was held to facilitate consultation, dialogue and discussion between state agencies and civil society organizations which do not currently focus on HIV/AIDS, nor incorporate the human rights issues of HIV positive persons in their agenda. It was felt necessary, to secure consensus on gender equality principles and issues, among other things.

There were discussions and presentations on themes focusing on: stigma and discrimination; advocacy and solidarity support; treatment care and social support; and monitoring and evaluation. Participants were also shown video productions, outlining the role of civil society coordinating mechanism to address the incidence of HIV/AIDS, as well as the impact of stigma and discrimination on affected persons.

The NHP's Gender Equality and Technical Advisor, Patricia Donald, said the workshop was timely, as there is an urgent need to address stigma, discrimination, and gender related issues, with respect to persons infected and affected by the disease, to reduce the spread of the disease.

Ms. Donald also underscored the need for the promotion of the human rights of these persons, if the country is to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halting and reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS, by 2015.

It is expected that the discussions and solutions generated by the workshop, will be pivotal in building Jamaica’s response capacity to HIV, specifically in the area of human rights and gender equality. Additionally, it will build a road map for a common national vision and strategy for sensitization and advocacy in the national HIV response.

Established in the Ministry of Health in 1986, the National HIV/STI Programme is mandated to coordinate and lead implementation of the country's HIV/AIDS response.

An expansion of the former Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Control Programme, the NHP focuses on four components: prevention, treatment care and support; human rights and the enabling environment; and monitoring and evaluation. It is largely funded by a $740 million grant from the Global Fund.

 

By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter