Mr Girmay Haile, United Nations AIDS Country Director has asked government to create an enabling environment and space to end discrimination and stigmatisation against persons living with HIV and AIDS in Ghana.
He said the UNAIDS is calling for a zero discrimination in health care settings as an integral part of their vision and for this year’s Zero Discrimination Day. Mr Haile speaking who was speaking at a news conference in Accra to mark the Day said the right to health was a fundamental human right that included access to affordable, timely and quality healthcare services for all.
“Yet discrimination remains widespread in healthcare settings which are creating a serious barrier to access to HIV services,” he stated. He said Ghana therefore needed to create an environment for in-depth discussions on stigmatisation and discrimination against targeted groups as a nation’s greatness was measured by how it treated its vulnerable people.
He said it was necessary to fight against individual and institutional stigmatisation and discrimination collectively. In 2016, Ghana adopted ambitious fast-track targets aiming at ensuring that by 2020, 90 per cent of all persons living with HIV would know their status, 90 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infections would receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 per cent of all receiving antiretroviral therapy would have viral suppression.
The fast-track targets he said could not be achieved if issues related to stigmatisation and discrimination were not properly discussed and addressed from all sectors of the society.
He said the UNAIDS had pursued a policy of zero discrimination against persons living with HIV as an integral part of its strategy to end AIDS by 2030 which also included a major pillar on the elimination of stigma and discrimination in health settings and among formal structures.
The joint UN team, on AIDS would strengthen efforts at supporting actions that would address stigma, advocacy and capacity of its partner’s particularly civil society groups towards the implementation of the Ghana AIDS Commission Act, the Country Director said.
He also pledged that they would support the Global Fund and PEPFAR consultations to ensure that Ghana obtained the additional external funding to augment its domestic funding for HIV and the expansion of treatment services for all persons living with HIV. “This will help in taking the struggle against stigmatisation and discrimination to all corners of the country, “he said.
He thus called on parliamentarians, policy makers, health services providers, human rights organisations, civil society organisations, community leaders, women, men, young people, religious leaders and persons living with HIV to take their stance for a just and fair world by publicising zero discrimination.
Mr Emmanuel Beluzebr, National President of NAP+ said the call to action was now because discrimination was a major issue in the fight against HIV epidemic in the country. He said even though some successes had been chalked in the country, a recent study index showed that 63 and 79 per cent of persons living with HIV across the country were faced with the worst forms of stigma such as; gossip and verbal insults.
He said the commitment towards zero discrimination was not a fight for only NAP+ members and partners and therefore urged government to ensure the rights of all persons living with HIV are protected in sectors and spheres. Mrs Gifty Torkornu Debgeh, the Ghana AIDS Commission HIV and AIDS Heart-to Heart Ambassador urged persons living with HIV that the disease was not the end of their lives but rather should propel them to move forward.
“Embrace people with HIV because we are not fearful, we are knowledgeable and I encourage people to come close to us to clear the myth associated with HIV and AIDS.” The event was held in collaboration with the Ghana HIV and AIDS Network (GHANET), National Association of Person with HIV (NAP) +, Moremi Initiatives and the UN team on AIDS.