UNAIDS Calls For Zero HIV Discrimination

An HIV Ambassador sharing her experience with participants.

The United Nations Programme for HIV&AIDS (UNAIDS) has called for a campaign against HIV stigmatization and discrimination of all forms in Ghana.

According to the programme, HIV stigmatization and discrimination, which remains widespread particularly in the health-care setting, creates a serious barrier to access to HIV services.

A recent Stigma Index study shows that People Living with HIV across the country persistently experience various forms of stigma and discrimination due to structural and social factors, with the worst forms of stigma being gossip and verbal insults (63% and 79% respectively).

The study also showed that in an attempt to avoid stigmatization in their local communities, some PLHIVs incur additional travel costs to treatment centers elsewhere.

Addressing the press at the UNAIDS-led global observance of Zero Discrimination Day, UNAIDS Country Director, Girmay Haile, stressed the need for Ghana to create an enabling environment and space that allows for in-depth discussions on stigma and discrimination against targeted groups.

“Because, a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable”, he said. “Discrimination doesn’t just hurt individuals; it hurts everyone, whereas welcoming and embracing diversity in all its forms brings benefits for all,” he added.

Mr. Girmay said the country’s fast-truck targets of 90-90-90 cannot be achieved if issues related to stigma and discrimination are not properly discussed and addressed from all sections of the society.

He therefore called for the issue of stigma to be addressed through the enactment and enforcement of relevant laws and policies such as the passage of the Ghana AIDS Commission Act, which provides anti-stigma provisions to promote and protect the rights of PLHIV as well as ameliorate the socio-economic consequences of the HIV epidemic on individuals and society as a whole.

Mr. Emmanuel Beluzebr, President of NAP+ Ghana called on traditional rulers to use their customary powers to ensure that discrimination against persons living with HIV in their traditional areas are stopped.

Mr. Victor Ntumi, President of GHANET noted that more actions needed to be taken by government and the relevant state agencies to fully apply the laws against stigma and discrimination in order to protect the rights and freedoms of PLHIV and Most At Risk Populations.

#Art2EndAIDS Competition

The #Art2EndAIDS Competition and Exposition end AIDS, a collaborative campaign between UNAIDS and The Moremi Initiative, was also launched on Zero Discrimination Day.

The #Art2EndAIDS is an initiative under the Ghana Protect the Goal Campaign which is aimed at addressing – “On the FastTrack to End HIV/AIDS”, a global UNAIDS strategy.

Young people in Ghana are invited to submit paintings, drawings or sculptures as entries for the competition.

Winners will receive rewards and selected art pieces will be exhibited through the country.

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri