With 584 reported cases of HIV and 262 reported cases of AIDS in Grenada, government has taken steps to help eliminate the problem of stigma and discrimination that comes with the disease.
A National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS was launched last week Tuesday by government with support from the Trade Unions and other Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
The policy will allow for protection against stigma and discrimination against those infected as well as affected by HIV and AIDS.
Minister of Health, Nickolas Steele was one of the two Ministers present at the launch and made a plea for an end to stigma.
He said: “There are those who are HIV positive and there are individuals who are infected by it which are close family members, which are work colleagues, work place colleagues and this policy seeks to address that.
“…It seeks to primarily end stigma and discrimination around both parties, affected and infected. It speaks to human rights, the basic human rights. It is necessary to have this policy to make sure that basic human rights according to United Nations, the rights of workers according to the ILO are applied. It offers or speaks to support systems and appropriate care for infected and affected persons,” he added.
According to Minister Steele, enshrined in the revised Labour Code under the section dealing with discrimination would be sanctions specific to HIV and AIDS.
He said it will deal with acceptable sanctions with respect to discrimination within the workplace.
The minister was hopeful that the new policy thinking will allow for more persons to come forward and get tested as the stigma also prevents frequent testing.
“It would be easier if you as a society are more acceptable to individuals period and not putting a stigma. For instance, it has necessitated counseling and testing to be only in one area and not within our communities (as) the way it should be.
“It should be accessible within our communities…someone going to test should not have within themselves or their peers that there is a stigma around them.
Minister of Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod who is the island’s Deputy Prime Minister pointed out that HIV and AIDS victims should be treated with the same human compassion as someone affected by or infected with a deadly disease.
“I know it’s difficult but do you think that it’s right to refuse to sit in the same room or sit on the same chair that another individual has sat on or occupied because that person is suffering from AIDS? As a nation and as a government, I think we need to rise above that level.
“We have to look at human beings as human beings and nothing else because the question is, if one day unfortunately one of us or one of our family members was inflicted with that virus, would we want to be discriminated against?
“Would you want to be cast out of society and that you are being banded from society because of an illness? I don’t think that a civilised society can play such role because it could be you today and me tomorrow and we cannot in any frivolous way just discredit or dismiss human beings.
Minister Nimrod felt that the discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS should disappear from Grenada’s culture.