As the world celebrates the global Zero Discrimination Day on March 1st, various issues were said to hinder the move of fighting stigma and discrimination among HIV/AIDS positive people.
The present theme this year is ‘No one should ever be discriminated because of being HIV positive. Get tested for HIV. If positive, start and stay on treatment’.
The analysis done by Rwandan Network of people infected and affected by HIV (RRP+) on stigma and discrimination shown despite the government efforts and different measures taken, stigma is still present in different settings including schools, churches and home.
In line with the constitution of the Republic of Rwanda (2003) as amended today in its article 16, it clearly stipulates that “All Rwandans are born and remain equal in rights and freedoms. Discrimination of any kind or its propaganda based on, inter alia, ethnic origin, family or ancestry, clan, skin color or race, sex, region, economic, […] and any form of discrimination are punished by law.
In July 2016, the Ministry of Health launched the ‘Treat all programme’ aiming at putting on treatment whoever tests HIV positive. The programme calls for actions to end any form of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and it is implemented across the country.
According to Sylvie Muneza, RRP+ President, discrimination was in the past even at markets where people could fear to buy goods from HIV positive people.
She said however it was decreased today; it is also present in some settings such as homes, schools, and churches.
Muneza advised the community to get tested and remain on treatment if positive. “being HIV positive is not end of life,” she said.
Dieudonne Ruturwa, UNAIDS’s community support Advisor said that allowing discrimination to continue is not only wrong, but also bad for communities, bad for the economy and bad for the future.
“Access to health services is essential to prevent and treat HIV. Yet, global evidence shows that one out of five people who have HIV reported avoiding going to a local clinic or hospital because they feared stigma or discrimination related to their HIV status,” said Ruturwa.
Talking about the Global targets for ending AIDS, he said that by 2020 countries should have reached at least 90 percent of PLHIV know their status and 90 percent of them accessing treatment; 90 percent have viral load suppressed.
Ruturwa said that discrimination will not disappear without actively addressing the ignorance, practices and beliefs that fuel it. He mentioned that ending discrimination requires action from everyone.
“Zero discrimination day is an opportunity to highlight how everyone can be a part of the transformation and take a stand towards a more fair and just society,” Ruturwa noted.
According to Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, no one should be discriminated against because of their HIV status, age, sex, gender, identity, sexual orientation, disability, race, ethnicity, language, geographical location or migrant status, or for any other reason.
However, it was revealed that discrimination continues to undermine efforts to achieve a more just and equitable world where people face discrimination every day based on who they are or what they do.
Ernest Aime Nyirinkindi, the in charge of information, education and behavioural change communication at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) also clarified that there are some challenges facing the move to eliminate stigma and discrimination on HIV, giving an example in education, in homes, and between married couples. He said as victims keep quiet, it gives way to the increase in stigma and discrimination.
“Despite a big step made to fight stigma and HIV, there are few obstacles still making it available in the community, but with everyone’s effort, we will be free of discrimination and stigma in Rwanda and people should know that having HIV is not end of life and cannot be resulted into being discriminated,” said Nyirinkindi.
He said that sensitization amongst the targets to reduce stigma and discrimination will continue to be done by RBC and its partners countrywide.
Zero discrimination Day has been observed every year since March 1st, 2014.
Elias Hakizimana @theinspirerpubl
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