Persons Living With HIV/AIDS Encouraged to Join Support Groups

Jamaica News: Persons living with HIV/AIDS are being encouraged to participate in support groups that are working towards reducing the level of stigmatisation against persons with the virus, in an effort to ultimately improve their outcomes.

The Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDS Coordinator at the National Family Planning Board, Ainsley Reid, told JIS News that a number of initiatives have been undertaken to ensure that persons who are living with HIV are not disenfranchised.

“We created a programme called ‘The Positive Health Dignity and Prevention Curriculum’, and we use it to train persons who are now serving at different levels in the HIV response,” he said, adding that some are working as community facilitators, and others are representing their communities on various Boards.

Mr. Reid said that his team also works closely with other agencies. “We are currently partnering with the Jamaica Council of Churches to roll out an anti-stigma programme which will deal with building the capacity of church leaders and congregants, so that they can be agents of change in their communities,” he said.

Additionally, he said there is an ongoing programme with the Social Development Commission (SDC) where general community leaders are trained to influence conversations around social acceptance and working with people living with HIV.

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The Coordinator also shared that “another aspect of that programme is our work with the Office of the Public Defender to create more awareness around human rights and to influence how we treat each other from a position of dignity and respect”.

Community Facilitator for the Jamaica Network for Zero Positive (JN Plus) South East Division (Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Catherine and St. Thomas), Joan Stephen, also told JIS News that her organisation plays a vital role in addressing stigma and discrimination as well.

“I communicate with persons in the region who are HIV positive. I use a database to check up on members to see how they are doing and if there are any issues, and I pass the information on to the relevant authorities to deal with it,” she said.

She noted that her team looks at how persons are treated when they go to the clinic.

“Many of them are put aside when they go there because they are HIV positive. They always complain that if they go to certain health centres, the doors are labeled so when they go in, other individuals know that they are HIV positive,” she explained.

She added that JN Plus has capacity-building programmes where persons living with HIV are invited to come in and participate and share with others who are HIV positive.

In that space they are comfortable and it helps them to learn to deal with stigma from each other, based on their experiences.


Source: JIS News

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