Thursday 21 February, 2019

Symposium sheds light on HIV stigmatisation, discrimination in Jamaica

Kandasi Levermore (right), executive director of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, addresses audience members during a panel discussion at the HIV symposium.

Kandasi Levermore (right), executive director of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, addresses audience members during a panel discussion at the HIV symposium.

Jamaica AIDS Support for Life on Tuesday hosted a symposium at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel aimed at highlighting the level of stigma and discrimination that individuals living with HIV and AIDS face in the island.

The event also looked at how legislation will help to allay these difficulties.

Among the stigmatisation and discrimination highlighted were: people being ostracised from their communities and families, losing jobs, being designated special utensils at workplaces and lack of access to healthcare and legal services.

Joining the non-government organisation at the symposium were other Jamaican NGOs, members of the diplomatic community, Ministry of Health and other ministries, Regional Health Authorities, Norman Manley Law School at the University of the West Indies and members of the private sector.

The topics discussed were: Advancing Human Rights to Accelerate The HIV Response by Dr Nkhensani Mathabathe; Enforcement Mechanism and Human Rights Commission, by Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry; Balancing Legal and Ethical Issues of HIV/AIDS in Healthcare Settings by Dr Jennifer Tomlinson a Dermatologist and STD specialist; Proposed Anti-Discrimination Legislation by Glenroy Murray, Associate Director of Advocacy Equality for All Foundation; Role of Strategic Litigation for Access to Justice by Attorney-At-Law Nancy Anderson; and Reporting and Redress Mechanisms for HIV-related Discrimination by Ivan Cruickshank, Executive Director of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition.

There were also two panel discussions. The first engaged affected and infected HIV individuals sharing their experiences of discrimination in accessing both health care and legal services. The panel included a transgender person living with a disability, men who have sex with men and sex workers.

According to Patrick Lalor, Policy and Advocacy Officer at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, among the objectives of the symposium was for stakeholders to discuss legislative shortfalls and changes, after which there will be a continuance of advocacy for these to be implemented.

Lalor said, "this symposium is geared towards highlighting some of the challenges we have around stigma and discrimination and looking at how, outside of public education, sensitisation and sharing the correct information, how we can get our legislator more involved in the process of ending stigma and discrimination."

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