Let’s fight HIV stigmatisation to achieve target — Coordinator
Ghana's quest to end HIV/AIDS by 2030 will be difficult to attain if the stigmatisation of people living with HIV ( PLHIV) does not end as stigma hurts PLHIV.
"If PLHIV are stigmatised, then they won't come to the clinics to collect their medications and that will make all our efforts to reduce the disease (wasted) “ the HIV Coordinator for Ashaiman Municipal Health Directorate, Roberta Araba Amoquandoh, who made the call explained that stigma was killing PLHIV more than the virus itself.
Ms Amoquandoh said that in a submission at a forum in Harare, Zimbabwe yesterday, during a panel session of the ongoing 22nd International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA).
She spoke on the topic: ‘Why we need a renewed focus on stigma and discrimination in health”.
She explained that even though they would be taking their medication because they were emotionally unstable, the effect of the medication would not be strong for effective suppression of the virus, and that could lead to re-infecting people with the virus if they were sexually active.
One of the panel sessions of the ongoing 22nd International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa
“However, if we are able to break this cycle, then PLHIV will have the free will to enter facilities to take medication, and with that, they attain viral suppression and the chances of that person re-infecting another person is low," she stressed.
The conference, which is organised on the theme: ‘AIDS is not over: Address inequalities, accelerate inclusion and innovation’, is the largest international conference on HIV/AIDS in Africa and is being attended by about 8000 delegates.
Other members of the panel were Berry Nigobora of the UNDP Regional Office in Pretoria, South Africa and David Mnkandla from NACOSA, South Africa, with Dr George Perrin of the WHO Regional Office for Africa, Congo, Brazzaville, as the chair of the discussion.
Providing the findings of the first-ever global report on the stigma index, Omar Syarif of the Global Network of People Living with HIV, said one out of eight people experienced HIV stigma and discrimination from healthcare workers when accessing HIV care while for non-HIV care, the number doubled with 24.9 per cent.
Among transgenders living with HIV, he said the number was almost 32 per cent, for sex workers, it was almost 13 per cent and among people who used drugs, it was 27.8 per cent.
For her part, Dr Masego Gilbert from Botswana said stigma in healthcare settings was due to negative attitudes and beliefs of healthcare providers in the biases they had, lack of awareness of why key populations of HIV should be provided with tailored services and lack of institutional procedures that guided practices.