Call for Non-Partisan Approach to Issues Related to Stigma, Discrimination and HIV Transmission

Diverse Group of Teenagers - Isolated

At this year’s PANCAP Regional Parliamentarians Forum, Deputy Secretary General, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan, challenged all parliamentarians in attendance to commence the implementation of the CARICOM Model Anti-Discrimination Bill aimed towards adopting a more inclusive approach to ending discrimination, not just on the basis of HIV status but on a wider margin including gender, disability, and sexual orientation.

Ambassador Soeknandan said, the model was approved in 2012, but no efforts were made by member countries to adopt the recommendations proposed by the model.

Parliamentarians were encouraged to take immediate steps to adopt the recommendations of the model with the overreaching aim for full implementations being July 2018.

One such recommendation is for greater sensitization of the public on the effects of stigma and discrimination towards those living with HIV and AIDS, and its role in transmission of HIV. It was suggested that within each respective Caribbean territory represented at the forum, that the school’s curriculum be used as an avenue for disseminating information about discrimination and stigma; collaborating with parent-teacher associations and other groups related to education.

Added further was a recommendation for strict monitoring by parliamentarians to ensure that health care providers and law enforcement are not perpetuating the cycle of prejudice by discriminating against those with HIV.

It was also proposed that a coordinating committee for parliamentarians be established to create and develop policies and strategies to protect vulnerable groups. A large part of the discussions were centered on youth and it was recommended that countries invest in public awareness campaigns targeted at the youth, on condom use and HIV transmission.

Following unanimous agreement, Ambassador Soeknandan requested that parliamentarians provide consistent updates on the progress of implementing the Model Anti-Discrimination Bill and emphasized that the overall benefit would be the protection of vulnerable populations, more key populations accessing health services and testing for HIV, reduction in HIV transmission, and deaths from AIDS. •