MESSAGE FROM THE MOST HON. P.J. PATTERSON, ON, PC, QC, MP, PRIME MINISTER FOR WORLD AIDS DAY ON DECEMBER 1, 2005


Jamaica, like the rest of the world faces an uphill battle against one of the most formidable enemies of mankind. This year the world has seen 5 million more infections pushing the number of persons living with HIV to over 40 million almost a 10% increase since 2003.
Countries are forced to contend with declining life expectancy and increasing infant and maternal deaths in an environment of declining budgets and high levels of crime and violence.
Governments continue to increase resources to fights HIV/AIDS, strengthen their partnership network with non-governmental organizations and introduce new policies to fight discrimination and victimization of PWAs and protect the rights of those who are infected and affected.
However, the single most effective strategy against the disease is individual action. Jamaicans must do more to protect themselves against HIV transmission. We need to re-examine our attitudes to sex and reproduction. Our men must be more responsible in their sexual behaviour and demonstrate a greater level of respect and loyalty to their mates and children.
The fact that our national data show that married women are among the high- risk groups would indicate that the sexual behaviour of too many husbands is exposing our women to a dangerous and deadly disease and their families to poverty, anguish and pain.
We have some deep cultural issues that we must be prepared to talk about in a rational, objective and dignified manner, but we must also be prepared to begin a process of change in our values and long held beliefs. There continues to be a denial of the right to decide whether or not to have children and our young girls have come under pressure, even from family members, to become mothers.
Unfortunately, too many of our men have held on to myths about curing sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and they have exposed our children to diseases and a life of pain.
The time has come for Jamaicans to make a promise. We must make a promise to reject those values that have hurt the people we love, affect the growth and development of the country and result in sickness and the death of many Jamaicans.
Let us make a promise to get tested for HIV/AIDS and irrespective of the result of the test, to make a promise to our friends and families to protect them from the disease. And let us keep that promise by changing our lifestyle.

JIS Social