THE National Family Planning Board (NFPB) has embarked on a public education campaign, titled ‘Champions for Change’, aimed at building awareness and promoting the reduction of stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV.
The campaign was conceptualised against the background that, despite stigma- and discrimination-reduction efforts, these issues remain deeply rooted in the Jamaican social construct and continue to threaten the gains being realised in the national HIV prevention and treatment response.
Speaking with JIS Tuesday, director, Enabling Environment and Human Rights Unit at the NFPB, Karlene Temple Anderson explained the rationale for the campaign.
“What we have found is that while we have treatment that is free, while we have health facilities across the country that allow services to be available and accessible, and while we also have a non-governmental organisation (NGO) — the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) that also provides services for people living with HIV — persons are still afraid to access the services,” she said.
The campaign has a two-pronged approach. There is a media component that includes the development of television and radio commercials as well as infographics and interviews. The second component is the engagement of three Champions for Change ambassadors who will support and promote the key messages that should lead to the reduction of stigma and discrimination.
They are former political ombudsman, former CEO of the Disputes Resolution Foundation, and attorney-at-law Donna Parchment-Brown; medical doctor and musician Dr Mario Evon Guthrie; and creative director, marketer and musician Dimario McDowell.
The ambassadors will act as change agents who will build awareness and motivate members of their networks to get involved in stigma- and discrimination-reduction efforts.
Temple Anderson explained that while the engagement, which began in June, was for an initial six weeks, the Champions for Chnage have decided to continue their advocacy efforts. She expressed gratitude for the decision on the part of the champions to continue.
“We are overwhelmed that the initiative has been so well received and at the fact that the champions would feel so strongly about it that they would want to continue. It highlights the fact that the intervention was needed and that people are willing to support,” Temple Anderson said.
The NFPB will also continue to promote the message about Champions for Change and ask persons to join in at their workplaces and in their communities.