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MONTEGO BAY, St James -- The Jamaica Aids Support for Life (JASL) yesterday headed 13 groups working with persons infected with HIV in a campaign for more tolerance of persons infected with the sexually transmitted disease which has claimed the lives of millions, globally.
Amidst much pomp and pageantry, members of groups which included the Jamaica Red Cross; the Sex Workers Association of Jamaica, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians and Gays (JFLAG); Women for Women (WFW) and persons living with HIV, among others, paraded to the beat of a marching band along the Howard Cooke highway on their way to the popular Dump Up Beach, along the city's waterfront where they massed under a tent.
Speeches were then heard from members of the various groups. There were booths from which condoms were issued and free HIV testing.
Ian McKnight chairman of the board of the JASL was heartened with the turnout at the inaugural staging of the event.
"We expected 100 people, one or two of three from each group -- we did not want hangers-on and we have been successful in getting that," Mcknight said.
He added: "At least 13 different groups around Jamaica working with HIV have come together to say that there are particular things that stop us in our work and if we are a little bit more tolerant in giving care, in giving support, things will change and so the burden of the disease, particularly on certain groups in Jamaica is one that we need to have shifted and shifted very quickly. So groups are saying treat each person well, treat each person with basic human rights. When you render health care make sure that you render it very well. We have a right to treat everybody well".
Nancy Wilson, the openly gay leader of the Metropolitan Community Churches, also used the opportunity to send a message.
" We have ministries all over the world that are open and accepting of all people including persons with HIV and AIDS and we know it is important to teach the love of God and Jesus; and acceptance of God for all people. We believe that love and grace and mercy and tolerance are so important in today's world," Wilson declared.
Supporters of yesterday's inaugural tolerance walk to support persons infected with HIV mass at the Dump Up beach in Montego Bay. (Photo: Alan Lewin)
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