Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley, and Chairman of the National HIV/AIDS Commission, Dr. Nigel Taylor, listening attentively to the presentations.
(A. Miller/BGIS)

Parliamentarians must continue to totally denounce stigma and discrimination, while ensuring equal opportunities for political participation among those living with or affected by HIV or AIDS.

Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley, expressed this view today while delivering the feature address at the Parliamentarians Leading on HIV Prevention, Stigma and Discrimination workshop, at Accra Beach Hotel.??

Mr. Lashley told his audience, which included several of his colleagues: "We have a duty as representatives of the people in Parliament to address the needs of all of our constituents and this includes meeting the needs of people living with or affected by HIV or AIDS. As parliamentarians, we have to be persistent as we advocate for and develop protective legislation, and the purposeful allocation of public funds to HIV and AIDS campaigns. But, we must also lead by setting a positive example, [and] by speaking openly and honestly about the illness."

He argued that Barbados "continues to demonstrate rather strong political and civil society leadership" in its response to the pandemic. He stated: "Government’s commitment to the fight against HIV continues to be strong and well structured. We continue to include a line item for HIV prevention and control in each Ministry’s budget and through the National HIV/AIDS Commission we assist our civil society partners with the sourcing of finance to cover various programme initiatives."

Admitting that this island had achieved much through the work of the Commission and its governmental and non-governmental partners, the Minister observed, however, that there were people here who still engaged in risky sexual behaviour. "Stigma and discriminatory attitudes still continue to impede access to prevention, care and treatment …

"Stigmatisation and discrimination against persons living with the virus and vulnerable groups present a major obstacle to an open debate on AIDS-related issues and hinder progress in treatment and management," he lamented.

Mr. Lashley reminded his audience that there was a ???country declaration’ bearing the signatures of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the Leader of the Opposition Owen Arthur on Barbados’ approach to end HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination.

"It bears testimony to a key political decision to approach this topic in a non-partisan manner. By so doing, we have sent a clear message, not only to Barbadians, but to the entire international community, that as political leaders we will demonstrate the kind of maturity and resolve that is required to be successful in the battle against all kinds of stigma and discrimination that impact on how we manage this disease," he declared.

The Minister said participants at the recent three-day United Nations High-Level Meeting in New York agreed on a comprehensive political declaration that would guide country responses to the virus over the next five years.

"The declaration commits to halving sexual transmission of HIV by 2015, and embraces a broader pledge to work towards increasing funding, to tackle the disease, to between $22 billion and $24 billion per year, also by 2015.

"We also underscored in that Declaration the need to increase access to HIV services for people most at risk of infection including men who have sex with men, sex workers and people who inject drugs. Nations further pledged, among other things, to ensure that no child would be born with HIV by 2015," he disclosed.

The workshop forms part of the Advancing Parliamentary Leadership in Community Dialogues on HIV Prevention, Stigma and Discrimination Project. It is being led by the Office of the Speaker of the House of Assembly and supported by the National HIV/AIDS Commission, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.


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