Mon | Jan 30, 2023

Church urged to lead crusade against AIDS stigma

Published:Tuesday | November 29, 2022 | 12:06 AM
Father Claude Campbell (right) listens as Jumoke Patrick, executive director of the Jamaican Network of Seropositives, talks about the anti-discrimination campaign after the World AIDS Day service at St Andrew Parish Church in Half-Way Tree on Sunday.
Father Claude Campbell (right) listens as Jumoke Patrick, executive director of the Jamaican Network of Seropositives, talks about the anti-discrimination campaign after the World AIDS Day service at St Andrew Parish Church in Half-Way Tree on Sunday.

Days ahead of the commemoration of World AIDS Day on December 1, lobbyist Jumoke Patrick is calling for churches to help break the chains of discrimination, which continue to haunt persons living with HIV (PLHIV) in Jamaica. Addressing a service...

Days ahead of the commemoration of World AIDS Day on December 1, lobbyist Jumoke Patrick is calling for churches to help break the chains of discrimination, which continue to haunt persons living with HIV (PLHIV) in Jamaica.

Addressing a service at St Andrew Parish Church on Sunday, Patrick said that people living with the disease continue to suffer injustice and inequality.

He called for the wider faith-based community to tackle stigma by facing these issues head-on.

Patrick, executive director of the Jamaican Network of Seropositives (JN+), re-emphasised that there are eight years left before the 2030 goal of ending AIDS as a global health threat.

“Economic, social, cultural, and legal inequalities must be addressed as a matter of urgency. World leaders, and I also say faith leaders and followers, need to act boldly and hold each other accountable through leadership to end equality,” he said.

Patrick reiterated the call for churches to embrace PLHIV and to be more inclusive. That includes not viewing PLHIV as persons worthy of scorn or who are being punished for their sins.

“Church, as followers of Jesus, we are called to remove barriers and societal constructs that hinder the flow of the love of God. We are called to strive to overcoming justice and inequality so that all can experience the embracing love of God,” Patrick said.

“Ephesians 5:2 reminds us to live in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us. We are called to walk in love and humility and with grace. To see the presence of God in others and not judge and justify injustice and inequality,” he said.

JN+ is a non-governmental organisation that provides care and support for PLHIV.

The group was established in 1997 to advocate for the rights and concerns of PLHIV and their families. JN+ collaborates locally, regionally and globally with other networks, stakeholders, and partners in the HIV response.

The group is also the recognised voice of PLHIV affiliated with the Caribbean Regional Network of Persons Living with HIV (CRN+).

Patrick was also speaking on behalf of the coalition of civil-society organisations in Jamaica who are working to provide HIV prevention, treatment, and care services.

World AIDS Day is commemorated annually on December 1 each year to pay respects to those who have been infected and affected by HIV and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses.

During this week, JN+ will host a series of events under the global theme ‘Equalise’.

At the church service, prayers were offered for various civil-society organisations like JN+ that are at the forefront of mobilising, caring for, educating, learning, and living with HIV-positive people.

The church service was also an opportunity for people of faith to reaffirm their commitment to strengthening global solidarity and shared responsibility in the fight against AIDS.

ainsworth.morris@gleanerjm.com