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Anti-Discrimination Policy Required To Cushion People With HIV/AIDS

By Sharleen Mohammed

The recent Zimbabwe Stigma Index Report has revealed that 69.7% of people living with HIV in the country have experienced stigma and discrimination with young males and females bearing the brunt of it, which has been a cause for concern.

This is a significant increase from the 65.5% reported in 2014. This finding is concerning as stigma and discrimination can have a profound impact on the health and well-being of people living with HIV, as well as their ability to access services.

Adolescents appear to be affected, with 48.8%males and 52.0% of females reporting experiences of stigma and discrimination.

Speaking on the side-lines of the Stigma Index Action workshop held in Harare, Wednesday, Zimbabwe Technical training and education centre for health (ZimTTECH) senior program manager, Mr Abisha Jonga said people living with HIV are not disclosing their status because they fear rejection.

“We have realised that stigma is resulting in people not wanting to reveal their HIV status.
“Whether in families, workplace, school and in relationships and by not revealing their status, it is leading to further spread of the disease.” Said Mr Jonga.

He added: “In relationships, if you do not know the status of your partner people indulge in protected sex but after a few encounters, they drop protection and go for unprotected sex then chances of spreading HIV are very high.”

Mr Jonga also noted that people have a tendency of sexualising HIV and when they find you to be positive you are accused of sleeping around when it is not always the case.

Speaking at the same event, Zimbabwe National Network of people living with HIV/AIDS stigma programs officer Mr Tonderai Mwareka said policy change is urgently needed to address HIV related stigma and discrimination.

“After noting that stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV rose, there was a proposal to engage multi-sectoral partners to address the stigma so that people in communities have a better understanding of the disease,” said Mr Jonga.

He added: “The official stigma index plan of action will go a long way in terms of addressing stigma and discrimination.”

Zimbabwe Institute of Systematic Therapy, Clinic and Further Education Manager, Mrs Winnet Manyadza added that there is a notable rise of about 5 percent of self stigma among people living with HIV.

“We are here to support Government’s effort to curb self stigma whilst ensuring that service providers are sensitive when offering servicing to people living with HIV because it is us who cause a person to self stigma maybe because of our language and sometimes lack of knowledge.

A national policy is urgently needed in order to effectively address HIV-related Stigma discrimination in Zimbabwe.