JIS News

Minister of Labour and Social Security, Pearnel Charles, has appealed to persons with HIV/AIDS to assist in controlling its spread, while urging sanctions against those who intentionally pass on the virus to others.
The Minister, who was speaking at the launch of the Ministry’s Life Threatening Illness (LTI) policy recently at the Hilton Kingston, said that persons living with the disease have a responsibility to protect those who do not have it.
“I think that the HIV epidemic is spreading so fast and causing us so many problems… but we have not been calling on those with the disease to take some responsibility. They must take responsibility in assisting us to manage this disease,” he stated.
“We can educate them to participate and be responsible or we are going to have to sanction them, because a man can’t know he has AIDS and decides that he got it and therefore thinks he needs to give it to others,” Minister Charles continued. “If those who know they have the epidemic are not going to be made to take responsibility in assisting us to control it…we have to make them take responsibility by law. This is the only way we can make a serious dent on controlling it,” he added.
According to Minister Charles, such a dedicated approach is needed to control the disease as “if the epidemic is poorly managed, the consequences could be even more significant in terms of job losses. This will also force persons living with HIV and AIDS into poverty. As such, there can be serious social and developmental issues”.
In the meantime, he said that the Ministry is cognisant of the problems that HIV-infected persons face, and is working with the relevant agencies to ensure that persons with the disease are not driven from their jobs or are subject to stigma and discrimination.
The policy attempts to provide practical guidelines to deal effectively with LTIs among employees and also outlines the responsibilities of such employees. This policy describes an LTI as any illness or condition, which has the potential to result in the death of an individual.
There is special focus on HIV/AIDS as one of the newest LTIs, which has specific social, cultural and economic implications. Much of the policy guidelines on HIV/AIDS are based on the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Code of Practice. The objectives of the policy are to: institute a prevention programme on LTIs; eliminate stigma and discrimination against persons with LTIs; provide treatment, care and support for workers with LTIs; and manage and reduce the impact of LTIs within the organisation.
To support the implementation of the policy, the Ministry has already trained more than 80 persons, who will be providing voluntary counselling and testing services, Minister Charles informed.