A partnership agreement for a pilot project was signed recently at the JMA secretariat along Duke Street in Kingston, which will involve the Ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health Department and 15 medium to large-scale JMA member companies.
Under the terms of the agreement, the ministry will provide sensitisation and training to participating companies, which will lead to a proclamation that companies will not stigmatise or discriminate against anyone who is HIV positive.
In Jamaica, there is a great deal of stigma and discrimination associated with persons who are HIV positive, regarding the handling of food. Persons are of the view that, if someone is HIV positive, he/she is at risk for transmission, hence the reason for this project," said Robert Chung, MLSS director of occupational safety and health.
He stated that, through their participation, the food companies are acknowledging that HIV cannot be transmitted through food and, as such, they will not stigmatise and discriminate against anyone who is HIV positive.
He stated that the pilot project was in alignment with the tripartite framework which incorporates action by the Government, employers and workers to deal effectively with HIV and AIDS within the workplace.
JMA Executive Director Imega Breese-McNab, who signed on behalf of the association, said that a majority of the private-sector companies were involved in the food industry, hence the effort to involve them in communicating a positive message to the public.
She emphasised that, since HIV/AIDS impacted significantly on labour, productivity and profitability, the JMA and its membership were eager to support any initiative to end discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, particularly in the workplace.
The pilot project, which starts this month, will run for six months, after which it will be evaluated with the long-term aim of involving the overall membership of the JMA’s food and agro-processing sector, as well as other small and medium-size enterprises.
This project is being funded through the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.