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Struggle continues to end HIV/AIDS discrimination in Bahamas


NASSAU, The Bahamas – The Director of the HIV/AIDS Secretariat, Nurse Rosa Mae Bain has underscored the need to end HIV/AIDS discrimination in the workplace.

Nurse Bain said there are qualified Bahamians not working because private employers refuse to hire them because they tested (human immunodeficiency virus) HIV positive.

She maintained that the struggle to end this “blatant discrimination” continues and that the Secretariat is intensifying efforts for legislation to end this practice.

She admitted that the Anti-Discrimination in the Workplace Act has been passed by Parliament, “but it is not enforced to a large extent because people are still discriminating against those who tested positive for HIV.”

Nurse Bain said there are private companies in The Bahamas that require job-seekers to fill out applications disclosing whether he or she is HIV positive.

The director is upset over this form of procedure by the employers and said until there is something in the law to address this, owners of private companies will continue to design their applications as they please.

“We have been lobbying for the relevant changes in the law and that is definitely something we will have to intensify our efforts on,” said Nurse Bain.

She said there is also a subtle form of discrimination in the Public Service, and that “we will have to clear up our own act before we could put the muzzle on the private sector.”

She maintained that there are Bahamians possessing the skills and requisite qualifications but cannot find work because they are HIV positive.

Nurse Bain finds another act of discrimination against HIV positive Bahamians equally distressing.

She blasted the banks and insurance companies for the part they play in discriminating against Bahamians seeking mortgages to own homes.

According to Nurse Bain, people with HIV are living longer and if given the opportunity, can satisfy a 10-year, 20-year or 25-year mortgage on a house.

She stressed the need for in-depth education on HIV/AIDS.

“What we would like to see is an educational corner in every single business and in every single institution where people can get HIV/AIDS information,” said Nurse Bain.

“We would like every single institution and every business place to invite those of us from the resource committee and volunteers who have been trained to come out and assist persons in dispelling the myth about how HIV is transmitted.
“Because of these myths there is still “gross ignorance.”

She said the Secretariat still receives information where at certain establishments excess amount of bleach is used in bathrooms and kitchens, and where people use Lysol spray on telephones after someone suspected of being HIV positive has just used the instrument.

The director said there is still a great deal of stigma attached to the HIV/AIDS virus.
She disclosed that almost 7,000 people in The Bahamas today are living with HIV or full-blown AIDS.

“Of these persons,” she stated, “we only have just over 3,000 of them who are on medication. Our big concern is that we need to have approximately another 2,000 people come in who know they are infected and who need to have special tests done.”

Nurse Bain is urging HIV positive people to come in so a determination could be made as to their status and the appropriate medication prescribed.

“But the challenge is, people are afraid of the stigma and discrimination,” said Nurse Bain. “The stigma and discrimination is causing a significant amount of our people to stay away.

“What can we do? The first thing that we need to do is educate the general public so they would stop stigmatizing; they would stop discriminating and people can then come forward and have the necessary tests done.”

She categorized HIV today as a chronic disease like diabetes and hypertension, which means that if medication is taken as prescribed, one can lead a long, productive life and be able to “continue to contribute to society, continue to pay your mortgage and continue to pay for your car.”

Nurse Bain emphasized that people continue to “die unnecessarily” because they are afraid to come forward for special tests.

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