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Time to strengthen privacy

A health official says stigma and discrimination are still proving to be a major barrier in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Addressing the annual health fair of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic in The Pine, St Michael yesterday, Chief Nursing Officer Dr Wendy Sealy said that although significant progress had been made in reducing stigma throughout the region it still remained. She said that as a result it needed to be systematically addressed and the practice of confidentiality as well reinforced.

Speaking under the theme Your Health Status Is Your Responsibility, Sealy said the phenomena of stigma and discrimination remained largely infiltrated by bias and interpretation of the people creating these situations and the people on the receiving end.

“It has been my experience, as practitioners in our various fields and sectors, we sometimes in order to reduce stigma and or discrimination create more of these thoughts and situations simply by highlighting them, either deliberately or unwittingly. This often occurs because of ignorance and lack of sensitivity to issues related to our sensuality and sexuality. The idea is really to create an environment wherever we are –– at school, work and play –– which is comfortable for all, whether staff or client.

“I will also use this opportunity to remind us all that wherever and whenever we are asked to speak on HIV or other related matters, we carefully reflect on our own knowledge, skills and expertise in addressing the various dimensions surrounding the issues. Too often persons elect to speak with a level of authority which is questionable, which in turn then creates confusion in the minds of the public at large, and in itself may lead to situations of stigma and discrimination,” she told the students of the Home Ecology Department.

Sealy, who was also chair of the National HIV/AIDS Commission to the health day, further said that she believed it was as a result of socialization and cultural norms, and she called for urgent reorientation of health, social and other services.

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