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Call For Greater advocacy to Prevent HIV/AIDS

The Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP Jamaica) is leading the call for older persons to be informed about the factors which lead to HIV and AIDS in order to prevent further spread of the virus and the disease.

Addressing a workshop hosted by CCRP Jamaica  (Caribbean Community of Retired Persons) with the support of  the U.S. PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) programme on Wednesday, December 11, Dr. Jeremy Knight, Director of the HIV Programme in the Ministry of Health encouraged those in attendance to put the disease in perspective by getting correct information.

Noting that the country was still grappling with a 23 percent rate in teenage pregnancy, Dr. Knight highlighted the importance of targeting young people who are among the high risk groups affected by  HIV and AIDS. Data from the Ministry of Health indicate the highest rate of infection and prevalence among the 25-30 age group, primarily driven by risk taking behaviours among heterosexual groups. The elderly were not left out despite what Dr. Knight said was a low rate of prevalence of the virus and disease among that category of persons. “Once we are sexually active irrespective of our age group, we are vulnerable,” he said. “So it’s a big mistake to think that age has anything to do with your vulnerability.”

Rosemarie Stone and Ainsley Reid who are members of the community of persons living with HIV (PLWHIV) were among the participants at Wednesday’s workshop. Mrs. Stone who has been HIV positive for close to 20 years shared anecdotes from her own experience with the virus. Among other things, she emphasized the need for the support of family, friends and colleagues for persons affected by the disease. “My family was very very important to my being here today,” she shared. “We have to empower all those who are HIV positive, we need a collective response to have them fully engaged… it’s a shared responsibility,” she added.  

Professor Brendan Bain, noted Director of the Regional Coordinating Unit of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network (CHART), pointed to the factors driving HIV/AIDS. Among these he said, were an early initiation of sexual activity as well as limited life skills and sex education.

Wednesday’s workshop is one in a seminars being hosted by CCRP Jamaica to create awareness of HIV/AIDS among Older Persons. The workshops will continue on Saturday, January 18 at the Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Hall in Liguanea and on Thursday, January 30 at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge.   

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