Stigma and discrimination - barriers to fighting AIDS

The Association of Vulnerable Widows Infected and affected by HIV and AIDS (AVVAIS) in collaboration with UNAIDS recently released a report which indicated that at least 74 percent of discriminated people are HIV positive. Other groups being discriminated against are sex workers and asylum seekers. 
Behind the survey, AVVAIS president Chantal Nyiramanyana.
Behind the survey, AVVAIS president Chantal Nyiramanyana.

The Association of Vulnerable Widows Infected and affected by HIV and AIDS (AVVAIS) in collaboration with UNAIDS recently released a report which indicated that at least 74 percent of discriminated people are HIV positive. Other groups being discriminated against are sex workers and asylum seekers. 

According to the report, the discrimination is in the form of isolation from the family fabric and physical harassment, which all lead to creation of barriers in the fight against AIDS.

Stigma and discrimination are associated with lower uptake of preventive services, testing and counselling; reduced and delayed disclosure of HIV sero status; and postponing or rejecting care, seeking healthcare services outside one’s community for fear of breach of confidentiality.

According to the report, discrimination is manifested through exclusion from social gatherings, religious activities and family activities and in extreme cases, physical abuse.

Chantal Nyiramanyana, President of AVVAIS, said the main objective of the survey was to get the real picture concerning stigmatisation amongst vulnerable groups.

She adds that the survey was also geared towards understanding and reducing of social stigma against People Living With AIDS.

“We conducted this survey as a way of providing basis for advocacy, policy change and programmatic interventions by the government and other interested bodies to address stigma and discrimination related to HIV,” Nyiramanyana said.

The report revealed that although 87 percent of respondents reported that they had never been denied health services, 88 percent reported being denied access to other social services like family planning services because of their HIV status.

It also revealed that 45 percent of the respondents said that they shied away because of their status. About a third of the respondents reported that they have had their rights abused because of their HIV status.

According to Esperance Nizeyimana, one of the researchers who conducted the study, insurance companies were among the discriminators, where HIV positive people are denied certain packages such as life insurance.

Nzeyimana advocates for such discrimination to stop.
Dieudonne Ruturwa, a social mobilization advisor with UNAIDS said that the report findings would play a role in scaling up positive prevention.

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