Solid support - More help coming for persons living with HIV/AIDS who face discrimination
Scores of Jamaicans living with HIV/AIDS, who face stigma and discrimination, are set to get help with the establishment of the Jamaica Anti-Discrimination System for HIV (JADS)
According to Jumoke Patrick, the executive director for the Jamaica Network of Seropositives (JN+), it has collected close to 1,000 reports of cases of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV since 1997.
"We have a database where we store all this information. We have a steering committee that manages and governs the system and we work with different partners," Patrick told The Sunday Gleaner.
These partners include the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Office of the Public Defender, the Ministry of Health, the Dispute Resolution Foundation, and the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, among others.
"We have a lot of success cases. We have three redress officers who work for JN+. They operate in the different regions to collect these cases from the health clinics and other entities," explained Patrick.
REPORT FORMS AVAILABLE
He said report forms are made available at health facilities so that patients who feel they have been discriminated against can file a claim. Persons can also visit the organisation's office at 3 Trevennion Park in St Andrew to submit their reports.
"I think one of the most recent success stories at JADS is about two weeks ago. A young lady was dismissed from her job because of her HIV status, and she came to us and we worked with Jamaicans for Justice, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security on it. It went to court and she won the case, and while she is not going to take back the job, she will be compensated for being dismissed wrongfully," added Patrick.
There are more than 30,000 Jamaicans living with HIV/AIDS, and Patrick said some of these persons face discrimination in the workplace, at health facilities and in their communities.
"People are kicked out of their homes, landlords tell people to move out because of their perceived HIV status, just hearing of your HIV status without even confirming or even knowing is one of the reasons.
"People are dismissed from their jobs; especially those jobs that require you to have interactions with clients or customers.
"One of our members, she was told that she had to do a medical to go to nursing school, this was couple of years back. She was HIV-positive and because of that, they didn't want to accept her. that was a success story as well, because we advocated on her behalf and she was allowed to be part of the nursing school," added Patrick.
He said while persons who are HIV-positive in the food industry, and in the hotels, are most often the ones who face discrimination on the job, discrimination in the workplace is widespread.
According to Patrick: "We have persons who have been dismissed from top-name companies in Jamaica because of their perceived HIV status, and we also have the problem where when people are being asked to do medicals, etc, their HIV status is being revealed to employers without the permission of the persons."
He noted that while those living with HIV/AIDS are often more inclined to suffer stigmatisation in silence, more and more people are coming forward to share their experiences.
"One of their fears is talking about it because people may know of their HIV status and they don't want to disclose their status, because that is a bigger problem for them than being treated badly by somebody," said Patrick.