KINGSTON, Jamaica— The Jamaica Network of Seropositives (JN+) has certified the Kingston and St Andrew Municipality as a Stigma-Free Space, as part of the push to eradicate HIV related stigma and discrimination in Kingston.
The Municipality, with the resounding support of Mayor of Kingston, Senator Delroy Williams, has piloted this initiative as part of its mandate
Executive Director of the Private Sector Organisation Imega Breeze McNab expressed her organisation's support for the initiative.
“This could not have come at a better time. It is critical that our citizens empathise and have room for each other, accepting our differences as individuals,” she said.
“The experiences of businesses locally and internationally have shown that a diverse and inclusive workforce increases productivity,” she added.
In his address, Williams said that the City of Kingston was happy to take on this initiative.
“People don't understand how important ending stigma and discrimination is to ending HIV in the city of Kingston,” he said.
The mayor added that the project has the full participation and commitment of the municipality.
A joint statement from JN+ and UNAIDS noted that HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination is widespread across the country and affects individuals living with and affected by the virus.
The 2019 HIV Stigma Index 2.0 conducted by the Jamaican Network of Seropositives revealed that 33 per cent of persons living with HIV in Jamaica experience stigma and discrimination.
In 2019, the Caribbean Research Policy Institute (CAPRI) also found that Jamaica spends an additional US$424 million for HIV treatment each year due to stigma and discrimination.
In response to these findings, Project Lead of JN+ Kimberly Roach said the organisation partnered with UNAIDS Jamaica to develop the Stigma-Free Spaces Project, “to reduce HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination in various public and private spaces, and to offer policy guidelines to equip institutions with the necessary framework to protect persons living with HIV and other vulnerable groups in Jamaica.”
The group said that the Stigma-Free Spaces Project promotes inclusive and safe spaces for persons living with HIV at varying levels in Jamaican society.