Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo has called on employers to see HIV training as an important investment which is especially needed now in the current economic climate.

She made the comments at the Annual General Meeting of the AIDS Foundation of Barbados Incorporated (AFBI), last Friday evening, at the Accra Beach Hotel.??

"We need to ensure that the work [pertaining to HIV sensitisation] continues in the workplace… It’s not something that they can slash as they slash budgets because they can end up losing some of their best employees, not just because of the economic situation, but because the culture in some workplaces does not allow persons who are infected or affected by HIV to continue to work," Dr. Byer Suckoo said.

Acknowledging the need for organisations to have an HIV policy and for the public to respect persons who live with the disease, the Minister stated that all persons in society have various roles to play.

"The Ministry has a lot of work to do, both legislatively and in public awareness, on stigma and discrimination. HIV affects every sector.?? It’s a school issue, it’s a church issue, it’s a workplace issue and it’s a government issue," she stressed.

The Minister praised the members of the Foundation for their dedication, and encouraged them to "continue to think outside of the box" to get the critical HIV messages into the business community.??

Dr. Byer Suckoo, who is responsible for the National HIV/AIDS Commission, disclosed that its focus has had to be changed.?? "Our formal and informal surveys show that there are people who know about the message.??Some are tired hearing the message, but what we’ve noticed is that it hasn’t changed the behaviours.??So the message now at the Commission is on advocacy and on behaviour change," she explained.

President of the Foundation, Colin Brewer, thanked Government for its support.??"Government has in the last two years, provided concrete support to the Foundation in the form of a cash subvention.?? I am pleased to report that a second annual subvention has now been approved for the current financial year," he revealed.

AFBI is a business coalition for the management of HIV and AIDS in the workplace, with members comprising Government, the business community, the unions, and the medical field.?? AFBI creates customised employment policies to ensure non-discrimination and confidentiality in the workplace and seeks to enhance morale and productivity.??

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