Devon Dick | Tufton’s touching moves
Christopher Tufton, minister of health and wellness, made a compassionate gesture by appearing in an advertisement with young actress Jordan Spencer. The honourable minister gave support to this actress who suffers discrimination because she was part of a 2017 HIV/AIDS public education campaign. Jordan was told that her identity would not be revealed. The producer of the advertisement tried to blur out her face but not her voice and so persons recognised her ( STAR, May 10-12).
Many persons assumed that this 29-year-old actress and piercing specialist was a carrier of the virus. She lost jobs because of the advertisement. It also affected her daughter. In addition, even her boyfriend had issues and it put a damper on the relationship. Furthermore, she went into bouts of depression and could not sleep and turned to alcohol in order to forget her tribulations. That Tufton used his high office to lend public support to a worker is commendable. This gesture had no ulterior motive. It was not a photo op. It was not self-promotion. It was simply lending support to a worker who was discriminated against for no good reason.
A TEACHING MOMENT
Additionally, Tufton used this crisis and ugly development as a teaching moment. Like Jordan, he recognised that if someone who was acting only as being a carrier could face discrimination from clients, friends and ordinary Jamaicans, then just imagine the hell being experienced by those who have the HIV virus or AIDS. This discrimination is calling the country to do some serious soul-searching and deal frontally with our prejudices. It has to be constantly reinforced that one cannot get the virus through touching, hugging, kissing or being kissed by someone, or even eating from someone. It is a sexually transmitted disease. The bias against people with HIV/AIDS is found among professionals with qualifications. We all need to do better and be better. We need to be more responsible and sensible in dealing with people with HIV/AIDS virus.
Each human being is a creature with dignity, no matter what he or she has done or failed to do, or what was done to him or her. So a person with the HIV/AIDS virus has equal dignity to the one without the virus. Dignity is not measured based on achievement, or any human assessment. We must value the dignity of those with the virus because all are created in the image of God. All workers are worthy of honour and respect. Dignity is opposed to stigma and discrimination. To engage in discrimination because of a disease is to try to devalue a person whom God values. It is an attempt to devalue, disregard and deface the one who was created to reflect most accurately who God is. Dignity is a gift from God to each one of us no matter how diseased the body is.
More also needs to be done for Jordan, the worker who has lost income. Perhaps what was done for Ackaisha Green, whose honesty led her to return thousands of dollars, could become a model. Apart from Green being highlighted by the Senate, she also received financial support to take care of her children. Jordan needs support to promote her company and her business. She needs to become a poster girl for other commercials. She is owed an apology because her identity was revealed.
Tufton is known for his relentless and personal promotion of healthy lifestyle through ‘Jamaica Moves’. Now we can say this was touching Tufton moves. It might yet be his best move. Perhaps his next move could be hugging someone with HIV.
Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of ‘The Cross and the Machete’, and ‘Rebellion to Riot’. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.