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Media HIV/AIDS Sensitization Workshop

Attendees at the Health Reporting and HIV workshop

Information disseminators attended a workshop last week that aimed at broadening their understanding of, and sensitivity towards, HIV/AIDS health reporting.

Attendees from local media, Government Information Services, the Ministry of Health and Human Services, the Health Services Authority (HSA) and CINICO all learned about repercussions associated with the spread of HIV/AIDS across countries, regions, and the world.

In conjunction with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the ministry organised the workshop to commemorate World Aids Day 2008, Monday, 1 December.

Facilitators from PAHO, media consultant Jones P Madeira and health economist Roger McLean stressed that the Caribbean would be better served by a more robust approach to dissemination and discussion, rather than merely fixating on prevalence and mortality statistics. They also underscored the value of compassionate and empathetic interaction when dealing with persons affected by HIV/AIDS, whether directly or indirectly.

Messrs. Madeira and McLean were welcomed by Ministry Chief Officer Diane Montoya, who reminded participants that this year's World AIDS Day theme elements of leadership, empowerment and delivery are mutually inclusive, indicate a role for all to play, and tie in well with the ministry's vision of "optimal wellbeing for all". The theme emphasise the value of promoting good health and healthy lifestyles, which are "at the heart of the social and economic well being of any nation, and guide the ministry's current endeavours," she said.

The visiting presenters acknowledged that the Caribbean has the second highest prevalence of the epidemic in the world, after sub-Saharan Africa, so there is a critical obligation to make HIV/AIDS better understood. The epidemic is a reality that countries face, grappling with its effects on their people, economies and socio-political conditions.

However, contracting and spreading these diseases is usually triggered by life-style choices; people can control the problem by adopting safer practices. The approach to HIV/AIDS should not be one of hopelessness, but a resolve to take genuine care in one's social actions.

For instance, the network of persons who have had sexual contact with an infected person is very difficult to track - this is why single partners are highly recommended, and why persons are strongly encouraged to get tested, if they suspect their behaviour may have put them at risk.

The HSA's HIV/STI Coordinator Pauline Ffrench outlined the prevalence of these diseases in Cayman, and stressed the help that is available locally, both for prevention, and for those who do become infected.

Director of Primary Health Care Services Dr Kiran Kumar noted that an informed and sensitised media could better help people deal with the socio-economic and personal impacts of HIV/AIDS, which can be traumatic for individuals, for families, and for employers.

For further information contact: Bina Mani