KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday May 4, 2011 – Minister of Health Rudyard Spencer, has challenged the country’s leaders to craft policies and develop programmes to end stigma, discrimination and gender inequality in the society.
“Many of our people are marginalised because of a disability, a health condition, including but not limited to HIV/AIDS or their sexual preference. We must remove the impediments of access to social services to encourage participation of our citizens in national dialogue,” he said at a meeting to discuss stigma, discrimination and gender inequality affecting Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS response.
The Health Minister said Jamaica’s the achievement of developed country status is at risk if it cannot bring all peoples to the centre of planning and policy making.
“Leaders from the different spectrum of society must take up the mantle and move progressively forward. It will be a difficult road because Jamaicans have deeply entrenched positions but love can conquer all things,” he said.
In his remarks, Director of the National HIV/STI Programme, Dr. Kevin Harvey, said that Jamaica has been a success in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care. He said that there has been significant improvement in HIV testing, with 250,000 persons screened each year since 2003.
However, he pointed to the need for increased financial and other resources to strengthen the human rights aspect of the national HIV response. He said that the HIV budget is J$1.3 billion (US$15.2 million), which is less than four per cent of the J$30 billion (US$352.3 million) allocated to the general health system.
“I must emphasise that fighting stigma, discrimination and gender inequality is central to the provision of an enabling environment for responding to HIV/AIDS. In addition, the national response is one way of demonstrating our commitment to and fulfilling the international human rights conventions to which we are a signatory to,” Dr. Harvey said.
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