Sun | Sep 20, 2020

Human rights commission needed urgently - UN representative

Published:Tuesday | July 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/ Gleaner Writer
Manoela Manova (second right), country director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), in discussion with, from left, Kandasi Levermore, executive director of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life; Patrick Lalor, policy and advocacy officer of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and Dr. Nicola Skyers, senior medical officer, HIV/STI/TB Unit of the Ministry of Health, attending a symposium on " De-stigmatizing HIV/AIDS through Legislative Change" at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday.

The ban of United States (US) anti-gay pastor Steven Anderson from Jamaica and Prime Minister Andrew Holness's proclamation that he has no problem admitting gays in his Cabinet were lauded by one United Nations (UN) representative as positive moves.

But concerns have been raised that Jamaica still does not have a comprehensive anti-discriminatory law to protect those in vulnerable communities.

According to Manoela Manova, country director for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), such legislation is important as the country tries to achieve the Global Sustainable Development Agenda to end AIDS as a public-health threat by 2030 and to achieve the 90-90-90 HIV/AIDS target by 2020.

"The human-right barriers - stigma, discrimination, violence, negative social attitudes [and] the legal obstacles that they contribute - reinforce the vulnerability among the most vulnerable and most likely to get HIV, and they limit their access to the prevention and treatment and care services," Manova said.

While speaking at the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life Symposium at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel yesterday, Manova lamented the fact that the country still did not have a human rights commission.

"We know that it is on its way, but how long will it take us to get there. We need this body urgently," she said.

The UN representative said that the implementation of the National Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS was also a positive move, but it is not sufficient.

"The policy in itself is not enough and we need a confidentiality protocol or ... tool to protect the ones who are actually suffering from not implementing the policy," she said.

Policy and advocacy officer at the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, Patrick Lalor, believes that legislative support is necessary to end stigma and discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS.