Sun | Jan 23, 2022

Kingston & St Andrew declared safe space for persons living with HIV/AIDS

Published:Tuesday | November 30, 2021 | 12:33 PM
Imega Breeze McNab, Executive Director of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Jumoke Patrick, Executive Director at JN+, Delroy Williams, Mayor of Kingston, and Robert Hill, Chief Executive Officer of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation at the launch of the 'Stigma Free Spaces' initiative. – Contributed photo.

The Jamaica Network of Seropositives (JN+) has certified the Kingston and St Andrew Municipality as a stigma free space.

The designation was made under its official launch of the 'Stigma Free Spaces' initiative in downtown, Kingston on Monday.

The project was strongly supported by the municipality, with the backing of Mayor of Kingston Delroy Williams, as part of its responsibility to eliminate HIV-related stigmas and discrimination in the city of Kingston.

JN+, in collaboration with UNAIDS Jamaica and the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica, intends to establish many more stigma free spaces across Jamaica in order to remove social barriers for people living with HIV.

This will be accomplished by creating more supportive environments that will empower persons to contribute to the development of a Jamaica without prejudice.

Through this collaboration, JN+ also aspires to offer policy guidelines to equip institutions with the necessary framework to protect persons living with HIV and other vulnerable groups in Jamaica.

Imega Breeze McNab, Executive Director of the PSOJ, who was in attendance on Monday, expressed that the organisation will wholeheartedly support the initiative.

“This could not have come at a better time. It is critical that our citizens empathise and have room for each other, accepting our differences as individuals,” she said, citing that the experiences of businesses locally and internationally have shown that a diverse and inclusive workforce increases productivity.

Williams, in his address, said the city of Kingston was happy to take on the initiative, asserting that, “people don't understand how important ending stigma and discrimination is to ending HIV in the city of Kingston.”

The mayor added that the project has the full participation and commitment of the municipality as they work together to end discrimination.

According to the Jamaican Network of Seropositives' 2019 HIV Stigma Index 2.0, 33 per cent of people living with HIV in Jamaica face stigma and discrimination.

The Caribbean Research Policy Institute (CAPRI) also discovered in 2019 that stigma and discrimination cost Jamaica an additional US$424 million in HIV treatment each year.

In celebration of World AIDS Day tomorrow, a breakfast forum will be held to provide an opportunity for people living with HIV/AIDS and key stakeholders to discuss the realities of their experiences and to strategise ways to address inequalities still present in today's society surrounding HIV/AIDS positive persons.

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