???Nine out of 10 people living with HIV and AIDS are of working age???a startling statistic that should be important to each and every one of us, because it could be me; it could be you!???

This extract was part of the winning speech delivered by Julia Thorington of the Barbados Community College, at the Labour Department???s 6th Annual HIV Awareness Speech Competition, which was held yesterday at the Warrens Office Complex.

Delving into the theme, Getting to Zero: The HIV Fight is Not Over! Workplace policies, addressing HIV and AIDS will improve acceptance of people living with HIV at work, Ms. Thorington acknowledged that while policies helped the cause, their purpose could only be realised through implementation.

??????Without action, a policy is simply words and ideas on paper???If we are to reach zero transmissions, [and] zero discrimination, the key to success lies not solely within the development of policies, but with the implementation of them,??? she noted.

She added that if discrimination was to be reduced and persons in the workplace were to be more accepting of people living with HIV, greater emphasis needed to be placed on educating such persons about workplace policies. She said that the information should be used to destroy any myths, and to sensitise the hearts and minds of people.

???If that policy is put on the shelf???what use is it to the person living with HIV who has to endure the whispers at work and being shunned???? she declared.

Chief Labour Officer (CLO), Vincent Burnett, congratulated all six participants, including representatives from the Nation Publishing Company and the Electoral and Boundaries Commission, for their worthwhile contributions.

He said the Ministry would continue its efforts to provide fora which encouraged dialogue on relevant issues, such as HIV and AIDS. The CLO added that the department was also considering anti-discrimination legislation, which would facilitate work environments that catered to all employees.

Thanking the Department for its contribution to the line-up of activities for Love Safely Week, Director of the National HIV/AIDS Commission, Jacqueline Wiltshire-Gay, disclosed that her organisation, in consultation with the Ministry of Health, was finalising a new, strategic plan that would guide the national AIDS programme over the next five years.

???This is going to be critical, because we???re in a resource scarce environment???We???re going to have to count on our team work with the Ministry of Labour and all our other partners,??? she added.

Other speech competition winners were Katrina Watson from the Barbados Agricultural Management Corporation, who placed second; Kayla Headley from the Ministry of Housing, who placed third; and Safety and Health Officer, Trevor Blackman who won the impromptu speech segment.


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