JIS News

Chief of Epidemiology and AIDS in the Ministry of Health, Professor Peter Figueroa, has said that more workplaces should move towards having active HIV/AIDS policies, noting that this would go a far way in reducing ignorance about the disease.
“Many private sector companies.have been proactive in taking steps to protect members of their workforce, who are living with HIV. This is the example that we want others to follow,” he said.
Professor Figueroa, who was speaking at today’s (Sept. 20) launch of the Jamaica Business Council on HIV/AIDS at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, noted that discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS in the workplace remained a problem, which needed to be addressed.
He said that persons with the disease could still contribute positively to the workforce. “With the availability of anti-retroviral drugs, persons living with HIV can live healthy productive lives for many years. They can continue to make a meaningful contribution at the workplace,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) president, Audrey Hinchcliffe, informed that more than 19 companies, which do not have HIV/AIDS policies, have committed to enact such as soon as possible. These, she said, “will certainly be effective in reducing the incidence of discrimination and stigma that is unfortunately being practised against persons living with HIV/AIDS in some of our less enlightened companies”.
A survey of 23 companies conducted by the JEF in February, found that 62 per cent of these companies did not have an HIV-specific workplace policy and 13 per cent stated that they would not hire applicants, who disclosed that they were HIV positive.
The JEF president further implored companies to get involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, by becoming a member of the Business Council.
Mission Director for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Jamaica and Caribbean Regional HIV/AIDS Programme, Karen Turner, noted that companies, by joining the Council “are making a strong statement to the rest of Jamaica that the only shame related to HIV/AIDS is in not talking about it”.
Miss Turner deemed the venture “an excellent example of collaboration and cooperation, and it also represents a significant step that the business community is making to demonstrate its leadership in helping Jamaica address the challenges of HIV/AIDS”.
In the meantime, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Capital and Credit Financial Group, Ryland Campbell, commended the JEF on its business-like approach towards addressing HIV/AIDS in the workplace, adding that the issue, “if left unattended, could have a very deleterious effect on the Jamaica business community”.
Citing a United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS study, Mr. Campbell outlined that, “AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death for people age 15 to 44 in the Caribbean, and accounted for 27,000 deaths in 2005,” adding that these statistics were cause for concern.
The Jamaica Business Council on HIV/AIDS is a project of the JEF and is aimed at facilitating a structured response by the business community to HIV/AIDS as well as to develop a culture of respect for persons afflicted by the disease.
The Council, which comprises heads of major companies in Jamaica, ranging from banking and financial institution to fast food outlets, has some eight lead sponsors, with seed funding from the USAID and the US-based Merck Sharp and Dohme Pharmaceutical Research Laboratories.

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