Acting Minister of International Business and International Transport,??Richard Sealy????

A??Government Minister has lamented the fact that despite ongoing educational programmes, Barbadians are exhibiting behaviours that suggest that they are either not sensitised about HIV/AIDS, or worse, unconcerned about their own status and, by extension, that of their partners.

Addressing a recent HIV/AIDS Social Evening organised by the Ministry of International Business and International Transport, Acting Minister, Richard Sealy, underscored the need for programmes to "effect changes in attitudes as well as behaviour.

"It is imperative for Ministries to realise that these programmes cannot be executed in a vacuum, but should be become part and parcel of the standard daily working practices. Indeed we need to recognise that making people aware of HIV/AIDS is a continuous process and not a one-off activity," he contended.

In this regard, Minister Sealy congratulated staff for their initiative in convening the event, noting that given the sector’s importance the Ministry remained committed to focusing attention on discouraging stigma and discrimination in the workplace.

"The Ministry has developed a comprehensive sensitisation and awareness programme, which will target all its major stakeholders in the private and public sectors, and will also take into consideration the expatriate community employed in the sector. The efforts of any ministry or agency seeking to reinforce behavioural change and discourage stigma and discrimination in the workplace should be ably supported by all stakeholders, especially since these two factors are referred to by the National HIV/AIDS Commission as the key obstacles which contribute to the dynamics of this epidemic," the Minister maintained.

Mr. Sealy also recognised and applauded the Commission’s work, particularly its ability to successfully mobilise a multi-sectoral response to HIV/AIDS through the development of similar programmes. ??

He also recognised the efforts spearheaded by the Ministry of Labour and its HIV/AIDS Core Group in the development and launch last October of the Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and Other Life Threatening Illnesses for the Public Sector.?? It seeks to ensure that critical policy issues dealing with persons living with life-threatening diseases are being addressed. The efforts of the Ministry of Tourism also came in for praise.

Urging Ministry representatives to not only enjoy the planned entertainment, but to take the initiative to a higher level, the Government Minister advised: "Each of us can and should be an agent for change.?? The health and the future of Barbados is in our hands."

The fact that we all can be change agents in the HIV/ AIDS fight was crystallised when actors from Double Laugh Productions and Drama Konnections, brought to the fore issues pertaining to HIV in the church and within the work place.

Left in stitches by the antics of Mavis and Idalia of Double Laugh, guests saw the ???high and mighty’ Idalia – a church board member – humbled after she realised that she might have been exposed to HIV through her husband’s infidelity.?? Idalia was on her way to a Board meeting to have a Sunday School teacher fittingly ???read out’ of the church for contracting HIV while having ???sex outside of marriage.’

While urging Idalia and, by extension, the church to be understanding and humane in matters involving sexuality, Mavis contended: ??"Idalia, I a’int saying that you supposed to compromise your Christian standards. All I saying is that people hurting, and this HIV thing licking up people. The one place that people figure they will get support, love and embraciveness is the church, and if de church does the same thing as the world, then they a’int no different."

Meanwhile, Drama Konnections highlighted the ignorance and irony of discriminating against persons with HIV/AIDS in the workplace, when a workmate finally disclosed her positive status to a shocked colleague.

Infectious rhythms from the St. Lucy Secondary School’s Steel Orchestra kept patrons dancing the night away, as they considered their critical role in the HIV/AIDS response.

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