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News - Minister Suckoo Tells Students: "HIV affects us all"
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Labour News.

Minister Suckoo Tells Students: "HIV affects us all"

Done by: Ms Shamkoe Pilé (BGIS)


HIV and AIDS have gone beyond being a health issue to one that affects us socially and economically.  This is another reason why it is important that the youth are sensitised about this disease.   


This assertion was made by Minister of Labour and Social Security, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, as she addressed secondary school students attending a workshop, hosted by the Barbados Employers’ Confederation.  It was staged in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour to mark World AIDS Day under the theme, ‘Securing the Workforce of the Future’.


“HIV and AIDS is a matter that should concern us all. It has moved beyond a mere health problem to a social and economic issue. From our perspective at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, we feel it is important to sensitise you, our youth,” the Labour Minister said, adding that it now threatened the workforce.


Pointing to evidence from the HIV/AIDS 2008 survey, Dr. Byer Suckoo noted that most of the new cases fell within the most productive sector of the society.  “In Barbados, approximately 74 per cent of the 1,730 persons living with HIV at December 2008 fall within the age group 15 to 49 years.”


“HIV affects the most productive segment of the labour force. It reduces earnings and causes a decline in productivity, not only because of illness directly and that you are not physically able, but because you may not be comfortable in the workplace, because of discrimination so you prefer to not go to work,” she noted.


Pointing out that while discrimination may be real or imagined, she told the students, “This affects all of us, [because of] lost hours of work, manpower, skills and experience that many Persons Living with HIV/AIDS would be able to provide…”

The Labour Minister remarked that HIV and AIDS as well as other chronic diseases also placed a burden on social security, noting, “This would also threaten the social security scheme, our National Insurance Scheme, because of the sickness benefits and other benefits you would have there.  We are concerned today about HIV and AIDS and the impact it would have if the numbers continued to grow.”


The Labour Minister reminded the students that they were the workforce of the future. She explained that attitudes towards the disease and Persons Living with HIV and AIDS needed to be adjusted because, according to her, “this affected persons’ ability to provide for themselves and their families”.


“What you do, in terms of how you protect yourself from HIV, will ensure that we have a workforce that can continue to produce. But your attitudes towards HIV and AIDS and towards Persons Living with HIV and AIDS will also ensure that our workforce remains productive.  [So] those persons who are affected by HIV, or any illness for that matter, would still be able to come into work and give of their best,” Dr. Byer Suckoo said.


The Minister of Labour stated that her Ministry was playing its part in addressing the HIV pandemic, adding, “We have embarked on a programme aimed at promoting a supportive, ethical and human rights environment for persons infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in the workplace.  We are also preparing new anti-discrimination legislation.  In my Ministry, our motto is Reach Out, Speak Out and Keep Discrimination Out.”


Dr. Byer Suckoo disclosed that with legislation in place, persons could not discriminate against others in the workplace, in terms of getting a job, promotion, and access to facilities.  She noted that while it addressed HIV and AIDS, the legislation concentrated on all forms of discrimination in general.


The Labour Minister also spoke about the National AIDS Programme, explaining that the Prevention Plan for the period 2008-2013 would focus specifically on out-of-school youth. 


“Out-of-school youth, who are often difficult to reach, present special challenges to providing comprehensive reproductive health information and services. This is true because the information they need on human sexuality, abstinence, pregnancy prevention, HIV prevention and skills for sexual decision making, are difficult to address in informal settings, since this information requires sensitivity and focus,” Dr. Byer Suckoo noted.  (SP/BGIS)

Published: Saturday, 3rd December, 2011


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