(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — Dr Christopher Tufton is calling for the redoubling of efforts to end discrimination against people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
Delivering the keynote address at the official opening of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Medical Centre on Hagley Park Road in St Andrew on Monday, the minister of health said while some groups are more vulnerable to contracting the disease, everyone can become a victim of the virus.
“We have to come to terms in our environment with that recognition and that reality – that the risk profile of HIV extends beyond any particular group – and recommit ourselves to deal with it,” the minister told the audience.
He said no HIV patient who seeks advice or treatment at public health facilities should be denied service because of the illness, as persons found in breach of the directive will face consequences for their actions.
“HIV patients should not be treated differently from persons with diabetes or hypertension, and other diseases. If we are ever to identify that discrimination is being applied, we will take the strongest possible action, because we are all vulnerable,” the minister said.
The AHF, which is located at 183 Hagley Park Road, is the largest non-governmental service organisation in Jamaica that is providing care and support to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
Since 2013, the entity has been partnering with the Ministry of Health with service to public HIV treatment sites of the Western Regional Health Authority and the North East Regional Health Authority.
Through a new Memorandum of Understanding signed at the opening by the minister and the AHF, the Southern Regional Health Authority has been added to the partnership.
Also addressing the opening was Custos of Kingston Steadman Fuller, who lauded the group for extending health care to the public; AHF Caribbean Regional Director Dr Kevin Harvey; AHF Latin America and Caribbean Bureau Chief Dr Patricia Campos; Caribbean Regional Programme Director for the Centers for Disease Control Dr Varough Deyde; UNAIDS Country Director Manoela Manova; and HIV anti-stigma campaigner Rosemary Stone.
The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation is a global non-profit organisation providing cutting-edge medicine and advocacy to over one million people in 43 countries.