TPDCo’s HIV Awareness Webinar addresses HIV’s impact on tourism

 

(centre) Joan Stephen, HIV Survivor and Advocate pause for a photo with the TPDCo team following her presentation at the organization’s HIV Awareness Webinar. (Left to right) Renee Johnson – Website Content Writer, Ricky Pascoe – HIV Programme Officer, Sandra Barnett – Administrative Assistant, Deborah Bennett – Administrative Officer and Marline Stephenson Dalley – Corporate Communications and Community Awareness Coordinator.

In an effort to raise awareness on the link between HIV and the tourism sector, the Tourism Product Development Company Ltd. (TPDCo) on Wednesday December 08, 2021, hosted a webinar with some of Jamaica’s experts on the subject.

Guided by the theme “HIV and Tourism. How One Impacts the Other”, the two-hour virtual session delved into matters of sexual health and HIV facts, which were delivered by Acting Senior Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Alisha Robb Allen.

Dr. Robb Allen mentioned that higher cases of infection can be found in urbanized parishes and those with tourism-based economies. Of the tourism-based parishes, St. James is ranked number one. Currently, there are 32000 cases of HIV in Jamaica, and is most concentrated in the 15-49 age group.

Dr. Robb-Allen also called for a closer inspection of workplace policies to ensure an enabling environment for those living with HIV, as well as the need for entities to facilitate discussions of risk assessment and guidance on prevention strategies.  

Conrad Saunders, HIV Programme Coordinator at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, gave insight on the National Workplace policy on HIV/AIDS, a case study of Sandals’ workplace policy was explored as well as a testimonial from HIV survivor and advocate Joan Stephen.

Ms. Stephen highlighted her experience as a person living with HIV, and how her role as Community Facilitator with the Jamaica Network of Seropositives (JN+) allows her to reach even more persons and provide support.

Offering a wholesome look at the link between HIV and tourism, HIV Programme Officer for TPDCo, Ricky Pascoe underscored how high rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections impact the workforce, which is ranked as the most the most valuable asset of the tourism sector.

“Tourism is a people sector, and due to factors, such as transactional sex, high staff turnover and the tendency for employees to be away from home for prolonged periods, we find that HIV transmission in the resort areas is higher. For these reasons, and more, TPDCo continues to host sensitizations, consult with tourism entities to develop workplace policies, partner with other organizations and participate in demonstrations and school fairs to raise awareness and decrease stigma”

Honourable Edmund Bartlett, who delivered his message virtually, reminded tourism workers to take charge of their health and their interactions within the tourism space.

“It is in fact our pledge to improve your wellbeing, and that includes arming you with the knowledge and resources that will help to protect you and your families. In this highly interactive industry, we understand connections are made, which is why TPDCo opened this space to allow you to learn, rationalize and recognize the importance of responsible socializing.”

TPDCo’s Executive Director, Wade Mars emphasized the importance of service providers being able to access information that is geared at improving their wellbeing.

“The information will help you to understand the need to be empowered about your health and to exercise caution when making decisions regarding your sexual health. Jamaica’s tourism sector maintains a high standard because of your contribution. We are therefore obliged to give you access to information and resources that will benefit you in the long run.”

Detailed information about HIV transmission, statistics and other HIV/tourism related information can be requested through TPDCo’s training unit by submitting a mail to letusknow@tpdco.org. The webinar recording can also be found on TPDCo’s Facebook page @tourismproductdevelopmentcompany and Youtube @tpdcoja.

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