Work Needed To Reduce Stigma And Discrimination Re: HIV

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Acting Chief Information Officer, Erskine Callender, presenting??Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, with a copy of ‘Sticks and Stones’ and other memorabilia during the book launch.

There is much work to be done in our society to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as prevent stigma and discrimination.

That is the view of Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, who made the comments today at Tyrol Cot, while delivering the feature address at the launch of the Government Information Service’s children’s book "Sticks and Stones", which is about "HIV and AIDS, Stigma and Discrimination".

Dr. Byer Suckoo told the gathering, which included children: "There are decisions to be made at the legislative level to help individuals have their rights accorded them. But, along with and even before legislation, the society needs education and sensitisation. Individuals must know of their rights, and how legislative and policy decisions affect their lives."

She said children had a lot to deal with and at an early stage, so that it almost seemed as if they must be able "to hit the cradle running". She added that this generation also seemed to know more at an earlier age, so it was necessary to provide the children with the materials and programmes that were relevant, appealing and age-appropriate.

She admitted that there were distractions competing for their attention and so, they would become more inquisitive. "It is, therefore, vital that we teach them good decision-making skills from early, so that they are better equipped to handle peer pressure and feel good about themselves for making the right choice. It is not enough to just wish that children could just be children, as they were in the past."

Dr. Byer Suckoo opined that every stage of a child’s life provided some window of opportunity in which adults could assist them in changing behaviour, and encouraged grown-ups to look for those occasions.

She stated that children must be taught and shown how to respect one another, themselves and their bodies, and suggested that the book could provide the platform for doing such.

The Minister noted that the title of the publication reminded Barbadians of the adage "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me". But, she stressed that words were very powerful and when dealing with persons living with HIV and AIDS, one must employ the healing power of positive words.

She lauded the Barbados Government Information Service and its HIV/AIDS Committee for creating the book and said she was pleased that the organisation would work with the Ministry of Education to use it in the schools’ HIV and AIDS programme.

The book was written by Katy Gash, and is about a little boy named Anthony, whose parents died and his friends avoided him and spread rumours about his family because they thought they had died from AIDS.

saustin@barbados.gov.bb

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