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Jamaica govt commits to battling HIV/AIDS stigma


Jamaica govt commits to battling HIV/AIDS stigma
Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn. (JIS)

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Kingston – The Andrew Holness-led administration says that it is committed to eliminating all HIV/AIDS-related stigma in the society.

This was disclosed by the junior minister in the Ministry of Health, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, who was speaking  at the virtual launch of the UNAIDS 2020 Annual Report for Enabling Environment and Human Rights in Jamaica, on Friday.

She also said that discrimination and violence against people living with the disease are also being tackled.

“Tremendous investments have been made over the years, and the Government of Jamaica has done much work with civil society organisations, faith-based organisations, and international development partners to mitigate HIV-related stigma and discrimination in Jamaica.”

She added that HIV-related stigma and discrimination remain a persistent challenge to “achieving positive health outcomes” among people living with HIV/AIDS and those most affected, with the most vulnerable being sex workers, homosexuals, bisexuals, men who have sex with men (MSM), inmates, transgender persons, young girls, and other people.

Noting that embarrassment and shame are critical factors affecting how the groups access needed medical care, “or if they even access care at all”,  Cuthbert-Flynn said while the challenges persist, all partners are working in the HIV response, even last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This gives me great hope about the possibilities for the future.”

She underscored that the Government will be accelerating the progress to end HIV/AIDS as a public health issue, through a revitalised multisectoral response that protects, promotes and fulfils the human rights of all Jamaicans, including the most vulnerable and marginalised in the society.

The Cuthbert- Flynn added that  in 2020, Jamaica became one of the first countries globally to endorse and participate in a recently launched Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate all Forms of HIV-related Stigma and Discrimination.

“Our Jamaican partnership, of which the Ministry is a key partner, and which I have the honour of chairing, strengthens the tremendous efforts made by civil society, Government, international development partners and other stakeholders. The partnership provides us with a platform to design, implement, and monitor our efforts to end stigma and discrimination in all settings,” she said.

The minister lso highlighted that the thrust to mitigate “stigma and discrimination in all settings and end HIV/AIDS in Jamaica” is ongoing, and the achievement of targets depends on addressing the social and legal issues, highlighted in the Report, that serve as barriers.

She said that it is imperative that “we strive to allow every individual, regardless of their occupation, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, health status, disability and any other status, to enjoy their human rights”.

Cuthbert-Flynn said the UNAIDS Report speaks to “critical aspects of our national HIV/AIDS response” and showcases collective work in reducing barriers to access care for the vulnerable populations and also demonstrates how partnership is vital in the public health sector. (CMC)