Actresses Angela Weithers (left) and Yolanda Holder, performing a skit on HIV/AIDS discrimination for staff of the Ministry of International Business.

“I can’t believe my friend got de virus doh.”

“I was trying to tell you that you can’t tell by looking. Some people could be big, some people could be small, but what we want from people is love. I may not always be well, but dat is when I gwine need your help and care!”

This comical yet poignant dramatisation by friends “Lottie” and “Idailiah” recently brought home the painful issue of stigma and discrimination to staff from the Ministry of International Business, when they participated in a seminar facilitated by care representatives of Comfort Assist Reachout and Educate (C.A.R.E.) Barbados.

“Idailiah,” like many persons, was adamant that she was not prepared to sit next to, eat from, or even work with persons infected by HIV. She received the shock of her life, however, when her lifelong friend “Lottie”, with whom she readily shared water, banana and a seat at the bus stop, disclosed that she had been HIV positive for the past four years.

The need for extending love and support to persons infected with, and by HIV/AIDS was further highlighted when staff viewed a touching real-life drama, in which an entire Canadian family including parents and two children were virtually ostracised by their friends and the community after contracting HIV. This was followed by an interactive question and answer session led by the C.A.R.E. officials.

In giving the background to the seminar, one of the organisers, Senior Business Development Officer, Marlene Hewitt, said they were aimed at sensitising Ministry staff as well clients about HIV prevention and the harmful effects of stigma and discrimination.  She noted that the dramatisation by Double Laugh Productions was the fifth performance to date and continued to be a ‘hit’ with staff.

“Since 2001, we have been staging sensitisation seminars in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour. Initially, we took them out to our stakeholders, namely clients and partnering agencies. This time, however, because of the cabinet changes made last year, and the resultant personnel changes, we thought it best to stage the seminar in-house. Some of the re-assigned officers also need to be sensitised as well,” she explained.

Noting that the response had “always been positive,” Mrs. Hewitt said that in most instances it was staff members who requested that the seminars be repeated. She stressed that they were looking to expand the sensitisation programme during the coming financial year.

Angela Weithers played the part of “Lottie” the HIV “survivor” and Yolanda Holder the part of “Idailiah”.

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