Prime Minister Bruce Golding, says that despite the successes of the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, the disease continues to be a major stress to Jamaica.
Over the last 15-years, Jamaica has lost an average of 460-persons each year to HIV/AIDS and last year, 320 lives were lost. This Mr. Golding said, indicated that the country is moving in the right direction in terms of a reduction in the number of deaths. “But as encourageble as these results are we cannot afford to indulge in self congratulations as it continues to be a major cause of preventable deaths”, he said.
Mr. Golding was speaking this morning (Dec 1), at the official launch of the HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy for the Office of the Prime Minister and the Office of the Cabinet, at a breakfast function at the Hilton Hotel in Kingston. The launch formed part of the activities to mark World Aids Day, being observed today under the theme, ‘Youth Take the Lead’.
Mr. Golding said it has not been an easy journey as the efforts have been plagued by so many social, emotional, judicial and moral issues. “We’ve had to wrestle with the social stigma that attaches to this particular illness – the shame, and the ostracism.”
Prime Minister Bruce Golding (l) presents the HIV Workplace Policy document to the Permanent Secretary in the OPM, Patricia Sinclair McCalla. The occasion was the launch of the HIV Workplace Policy, an initiative by the Office of the Cabinet and the Office of the Prime Minister which was held this morning, (Dec. 1 at the Hilton Hotel, Kingston).
Mr. Golding said efforts will now have to be doubled and that we must recognise that this is a process that will continue for many years. He noted that Jamaica has been doing good so far in terms of reducing the numbers. However, Mr. Golding said there are still a number of priorities which need to be addressed. He said there is the need to create greater awareness through a more effective public education programme. Mr. Golding expressed concern that the statistics indicated that only 24-percent of schools in Jamaica have included sexual behaviour as part of their education programme.
He said there is also the need to create greater tolerance among both workers and employers, as there is still a great lack of understanding from both. A third area of priority which the Prime Minister said needed attention, is the comfort level of HIV/AIDS testing and the response process. “It is important to make people feel comfortable about doing the test and preparing them for the results”, Mr. Golding noted
Health Minister Rudyard Spencer in his address, expressed concern about the figures for HIV infection in the 10-24 age group, noting that the figures have doubled. He called on parents to lead by the power of their example in words and action and by consistently espousing good values to their children. “Communities must form a protective wall around our young people by providing a safe environment where each one is his brother’s keeper. Our schools must open their doors to communities for continuous training and education”, Minister Spencer said.
Best Practice Awards of the HIV/AIDS workplace policy adoption were presented to three companies – Sandals, Montego Bay, the University of the West Indies and Red Stripe Limited. Prime Minister Bruce Golding, was presented with the official copy of the HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Office of the Cabinet.