|President GCCI, Vishnu Doerga|
Head of the Roman Catholic Church in Guyana, Bishop Francis Alleyne, PEPFAR Guyana Country Coordinator, Ms. Stephanie Joseph de Goes, other members of the diplomatic community, government officials, civil society representatives, ladies, gentlemen, boy and girls, good evening to you all.
The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial brings together affected communities, policy makers, health professionals, religious leaders and members of the public to show solidarity and support for persons infected and affected by HIV; to encourage people to continue to act together, and to call on the public to end stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, and key affected populations.
As President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), I fully endorse this year’s theme which is “Engage, Educate, Empower.” I do believe that it is imperative to engage people, communities, governments, donors and the private sector in ending the epidemic. The private sector has a pivotal role to play in limiting the spread of HIV. An important avenue to ensure that this happens is through workplace education. We have a responsibility to educate the current and next generation about HIV prevention, treatment and care, and how it affects our lives.
Employers have a moral responsibility to ensure that employees are educated and have access to relevant information and resources. We must seek to empower people living with HIV to stand up for their right to live a life free of stigma and discrimination. In this regard, it is important for us to ensure that our organisations are free from stigma and discrimination through workplace programmes for our staff. Stigma and discrimination are barriers to accessing services for key populations. There is urgent need to end stigma, discrimination and human rights violations affecting people living with HIV and key populations such as sexual and gender minorities, sex workers and young people. I join with SASOD in calling for zero discrimination by amending the Prevention of Discrimination Act 1997 to include sexual orientation, gender identity and health status as grounds for non-discrimination in employment.Engaging, educating and empowering people living with HIV and marginalized populations is a critical enabler for attaining Guyana’s human rights goals and enhanced equity for all our people.
Private sector organisations have made a commitment to address HIV in the workplace particularly as it relates to educating and protecting the workforce by adopting HIV Workplace Policies. These Policies serve to protect people living with HIV from discrimination and unfair judgment at their workplaces, prevent and manage HIV in the world of work, promote information, education, communication and general awareness on HIV, ensure universal infection control procedures, delineate employer/employee responsibilities, promote cooperation between government, employers, trade unions and workers and ensure compliance with statutory and constitutional provisions. Some organisations have incorporated workplace programmes which include staff training and peer education.
With dwindling resources to continuously address HIV in Guyana, the private sector as a key stakeholder must take up the reins and contribute to supporting workplace education programmes. As the HIV response moves to long-term sustainability in Guyana, private sector involvement is crucial. I pledge the support of GCCI to join hands with all of you here in national efforts to bring an end to AIDS in Guyana.