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Gleaner Editors' Forum | Stigma in the healthcare setting eroding HIV screening gains

Published:Monday | June 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker/Staff Reporter

Civil society groups are lamenting that while HIV screenings have increased, the gains are being eroded by issues arising from the stigma-riddled experiences of HIV-positive citizens with the healthcare system.

Ivan Cruickshank, executive director of the Caribbean

Vulnerable Communities Coalition, acknowledged during a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday that civil society groups and the Ministry of Health have aggressively increased testing among Jamaicans.

He said: "We have normalised testing. Where the challenge comes in, is in the service-delivery point. So once people are tested positive, and then have to go into the system, we realise that there's a lot of fall-off because people don't feel that they are getting the type of service that will allow them to remain in care."

However, Jumoke Patrick, executive director of the Jamaican Network of Seropositives (JN+), a group focused on addressing issues related to HIV-positive individuals, said that stigma remains a consistent issue for people living with HIV.

"The members of JN+ complain on a daily (basis)," he said. Even last weekend, I was in Montego Bay. They're still having issues with just going to the pharmacists, just talking to the social workers, with just talking to the nurse. They are still having issues because they are made to feel as if their HIV status is something bad."

The groups pointed out that they have a healthy working relationship with the Ministry of Health, but policies are not reflected in day-to-day healthcare interactions.

In a statement last night, the Ministry of Health said: "The MOH, through its HIV/STI unit, continues to work with several partners to provide care for these persons. Each year, considerable time is spent in training not only in an effort to improve management, but also to destigmatise HIV, ensuring that both the physical and mental health of our patients are attended to.

"We continue to learn from our patients, and as a ministry, we are dedicated to continuing to improve how we deliver care."