Social Development Ministry launches Advocates of HIV and AIDS Campaign
On Tuesday March 13, 2018, female staff members of the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services (MSDFS) gathered at the Port of Spain City Corporation, Murchison Browne Auditorium, for the Annual HIV Symposium which was hosted to commemorate International Women’s Day (IWD) 2018. The HIV Coordinating Unit also took the opportunity to launch its Advocates of HIV and AIDS Campaign under the theme “Time is now: Rural and Urban Activists, Transforming Women’s Lives”. The event called for women to unite to advance and to press for women’s rights for parity and progress.
Delivering the feature address, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, Natasha Barrow stated that she was very pleased to launch the “Advocates of HIV and AIDS Campaign” and applauded the first Advocate, Miss Universe 1998 and UN AIDS Goodwill Ambassador, Wendy Fitzwilliam for entering into this momentous partnership and relationship with the Ministry.
Ms Fitzwilliam in addressing the audience, encouraged participants to make advocacy a part of their lives. She acknowledged that though there have been significant strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and that everyone needs to holistically change their misconceptions towards HIV/AIDS, Ms Fitzwilliam called for both men and women to change what seems like a “third world mentality” towards the virus, which is prevalent in our country. She strongly encouraged the MSDFS staff to get more involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS by actively participating in the Ministry’s 2018 HIV Advocacy Campaign and urged them to always practice safe sexual practices. She noted that men and women have to work together to successfully achieve the goal of significantly decreasing the HIV statistics.
The Symposium featured a panel discussion, which was moderated by the HIV/AIDS Educator/Counsellor and Programme Coordinator of COMTALK International Beverly King and featured Wendy Fitzwilliam and Coordinator of the Ministry’s HIV Unit, Aileen Clarke, who both addressed questions posed by the audience.
Attendees were also treated to an entertaining performance by Denice Millien. Other activities included HIV/AIDS, Blood Pressure and Cholesterol testing, which were provided by the North West Regional Health Authority.
The symposium, which has been held annually in March since 2008 by the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services through its HIV/AIDS Coordinating Unit, is designed to educate female staff members on personal and professional development in the context of gender disparity, vulnerability of women and increases in their risk of contracting HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases.
The Advocacy campaign encourages members of staff to become agents of change and play a pivotal role in increasing the awareness of HIV/AIDS to decrease stigma and discrimination in Trinidad and Tobago. The advocates selected will represent Trinidad and Tobago as individuals who boldly stand in the fight against HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination. This campaign will end on WORLD AIDS Day 2018 commemorated on December 1st.