Society must Improve Response to Persons Living with AIDS – Minister


Minister of Tourism, Entertainment and Culture, Aloun Assamba, has said that the society must improve its response to persons living with AIDS, and called on businesses to create HIV/AIDS workplace policies, which encourage an atmosphere of openness and productivity in the workplace.
Speaking at the official launch of the Tourism Sector HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy at the Hilton Kingston hotel on Wednesday (June 6), Mrs. Assamba said that Jamaicans must “re-evaluate how a so-called civilized society responds to persons, who have contracted the virus.”
Emphasizing that the disease has evolved into too serious a social and human resource development issue and affects far too many people for it to be downplayed, she posited, “to ostracize is not an option. It must be about inclusion, and not only out of some misguided sense of pity.”
Stating that the current situation in Jamaica proves that silence only makes a bad situation worse, the Minister said that “making people with the virus comfortable and feeling free to speak is a huge part” of the prevention process.
She noted that an atmosphere of openness must also prevail in the workplace, thus enabling persons living with HIV to “be a part of the workforce for as long as they remain well.”
She further highlighted the importance of “every organization taking a definitive position on the matter and documenting it in the form of a policy,” as this could help employers to address HIV in the work environment and maximize productivity.
Turning to the Tourism Sector Policy, Mrs. Assamba commended the role of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) in spearheading the document, which she said, represents “one of, if not the greatest achievement so far in the response to HIV/AIDS within the tourism sector.”
The purposes of this policy, she informed, is “to define and recommend how entities within the tourism sector should deal with the prevention of HIV transmission and help persons living with (or who have been affected by) HIV, to cope.” It also “sets the standards of expected behaviour concerning HIV/AIDS related issues for all employees.”
Minister Assamba said that she would like to see other entities follow the example set by TPDCo, which installed 23 condom vending machines in hotels between December 2006 and March 2007. The company has also managed a process of voluntary HIV testing involving more than 800 people.
“This testing is in line with the International Labour Organization (ILO) guidelines for the drafting of HIV/AIDS policies, which is no screening for the purpose of exclusion from employment or work processes,” she pointed out.
Stating that government, workers, and employers, have rights and responsibilities in the administration of the policy, Mrs. Assamba urged workers to ensure that they are aware of their rights and responsibilities, not just as employees, but importantly, as individuals.
“Get involved in the creation of the HIV/AIDS policy of your organization.if you are not sure whether one exists, ask. Everybody is affected in some way or another so you have a right to know, and to participate in the process,” she advised.
Employers, she noted, should also educate their employees and sensitize them to the need for a coherent HIV/AIDS policy within the workplace. “Help them to see why HIV/AIDS is very much a workplace issue, not just a private matter,” she instructed.For the government’s part, she pledged to “spawn more relevant policies that deal with HIV/AIDS and its suite of related issues.”

JIS Social