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MP: Health of youth critical

Barry Alleyne

MP: Health of youth critical

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We’ve got your back! That was the clear message Denis Kellman sent to the young people of Barbados yesterday.
Speaking in the House of Assembly, Minister of Industry, Small Business and Rural Development Kellman said that in spite of the challenges forced upon the country by the current economic recession, they would not back down from spending whatever they could from the little resources at their disposal, to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in Barbados.
In addition, Kellman’s colleague, John Boyce, the Minister of Transport and Works, noted that every ministry of Barbados would continue to play its part with a limited budget of about $30 000 annually to travel across the country educating Bajans on how to prevent infection of the disease.
Boyce noted that special attention would also be paid to places of high tourism activity such at St Lawrence Gap and the Bay Gardens in Oistins, where the consumption of alcohol or drugs could impede the sexual choices made by both locals and visitors.
Kellman and Boyce were both speaking in the House during a debate on a resolution to endorse a national bi-partisan approach of members to work with communities to prevent HIV, as well as endorse the United Nations’ political declaration on HIV/AIDS.
“The health of our young people must be protected,” Kellman told members in the lower chamber. “We have to fully understand the importance of young people in our society, and that they have to be able to be given a proper chance to build families just like we did in our day. Because of HIV/AIDS they are under tremendous pressure, not only economically, but socially as well,” Kellman said.
Noting that the disease was now an additional headache to go with the usual pressures young people faced in growing up, Kellman also said pertinent questions regarding the HIV status of the youth in Barbados would have to be asked for the next three to five years.
“This is not just a numbers game. We as a Government are still responsible for allocating funds to help protect these people from being infected. It will take a bold Government do so, and we stand ready. We can’t just look at the bottom line when it comes to protecting and developing our society,” the MP for St Lucy told the House.
He added that Government was willing to comfort the island’s young people in the face of the pandemic, even in the midst of the worst world recession in recent memory.
Boyce, the MP for Christ Church South, said Barbados remains on the periphery of what is considered the acceptable range regarding HIV/AIDS infections, but that Government remains steadfast in providing funds for research and education to fight the spread of the disease.
“We are hoping that as we continue to succeed in preventing the spread of HIV, that we do not breed complacency. There is no need for a relaxation of our approach, since the stigma associated with the disease is still very much around us. It is important that funds continue to be made available so persons infected have an opportunity to live as close to normal lives as possible,” Boyce said.
“We have to fight against these stigmas that link the disease only with homosexuality or drug addiction, or prostitution, or promiscuity. There are ways of doing this, and Barbadians must push the message that they (infected persons) are people too,” Boyce said.