|Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett (centre), is pictured with Director of the National HIV Commission, Jacqueline Wiltshire-Gay at the event. At left is Member of Parliament for the City, Patrick Todd. (c. Pitt/BGIS)??|
In an effort to battle the stigma and discrimination with which persons living with HIV and AIDS are faced, Government will soon release a new policy document – The Barbados National HIV Policy – A Framework for Action.
According to Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett: "The Policy is genuinely multi-sectoral, developmental and human rights-based."
The Minister made this disclosure last Saturday, while addressing the World Aids Day Rally at Independence Square, which was hosted by the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development.
Highlighting the Human Rights Act which encapsulates Freedom from Discrimination, Minister Blackett asserted that: "Discrimination against persons living with HIV… is a violation of their human rights which must be strongly condemned."
He pointed out that HIV-related stigma and discrimination was prevalent across Barbados, and reasoned that it was hindering progress in prevention, treatment, care, and support for HIV-infected persons.
"It is my understanding that HIV-related stigma and discrimination presents itself at many different levels within Barbadian society… People can discriminate in their personal and professional capacities, while both public and private sector institutions can discriminate through their policies and practices.
"I hold the view that it is necessary to address those persons who do not recognise their attitudes and practices as stigmatising and discriminatory and therefore, do not see the implications of their behaviours as it relates to the HIV prevention efforts," Minister Blackett stated.
The Social Care Minister also alluded to the HIV/AIDS Commission’s view of building a campaign on the Human Rights framework to challenge the issue of stigma and discrimination, and noted that "once we recognise the issue of freedom from discrimination as a human right, we will commence the process of stakeholders taking responsibility and action which needs to be reinforced as they relate to HIV and AIDS."