Jamaica has launched an advertising campaign to eliminate HIV/AIDS-related stigma, a problem that human rights advocates warn is hampering efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, the AP/CNN.com reports. The campaign -- funded in part by a $23 million grant from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- will feature radio, television, newspaper and billboard messages denouncing discrimination, according to Faith Hamer, an official with the Jamaican Ministry of Health. One poster to be displayed throughout the island reads, "When you're HIV-positive, you don't need negative vibes." Hamer said the messages are "geared at informing the work force about how to treat these people and that they should not be dismissed." In addition, the health ministry is developing a database to record cases of discrimination against HIV-positive people in schools and clinics. Many people in Jamaica believe HIV only affects men who have sex with men despite data showing that most HIV-positive people in the country contract the virus through heterosexual intercourse. About 22,000 of the island's 2.7 million residents are living with HIV/AIDS. So far this year, 244 new HIV cases have been reported and 170 people have died of AIDS-related illnesses, according to the health ministry.
The launch of the ad campaign comes two weeks after Parliament established a panel to explore ways to end discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS (AP/CNN.com, 8/19). Included in a list of more than 30 suggestions, the Human Resources and Social Development Committee recommended that: all radio and television stations donate air time during prime-time hours for programs that address HIV/AIDS; print media avoid publishing ads that endorse activities associated with the spread of the disease; public officials work to ensure HIV/AIDS tests are affordable and accessible to all residents; companies introduce policies against discrimination of HIV-positive employees in all workplaces; and teachers, parents and student leaders develop strategies to identify at-risk adolescents and reduce the spread of HIV among that population (Jamaica Observer, 8/21).
A recent survey showing that more Jamaicans are becoming aware of how HIV is transmitted and changing their negative attitudes toward HIV-positive people is a "positive movement" but the change, "unfortunately, is too slow," a Jamaica Observer editorial says. Jamaicans are "proud people who, regardless of personal circumstance, insist on their rights," the editorial says. However, it is "incongruent" for people who insist on their rights to "discriminate and stigmatize persons on the basis of their illness," the editorial says, adding that such behavior likely alienates people with HIV/AIDS, "with detrimental consequences to the community." The editorial says, "We can, therefore, only support the health ministry's campaign against discrimination and stigma of persons with HIV/AIDS," adding that it is "nonsense" for skilled, intelligent people to be "deprived of the opportunity" to contribute to society (Jamaica Observer, 8/20).
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Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2004 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.