PEOPLE living with HIV and Aids continue to face stigma and discrimination from the general public, threatening efforts to increase the provision of anti-retrovirals (ARVs) to those in need of treatment, officials have said.
Addressing an HIV and human rights symposium hosted by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights in Harare last week, director for Aids and TB programmes in the Ministry of Health Owen Mugurungi said there were still challenges faced in terms of stigma.
“Stigma and discrimination, gender, marginalisation have been identified as major obstacles,” Mugurungi said.
Zimbabwe HIV and Aids Activist Union Community Trust (ZHAAUCT) official Stanely Takaona said after going around Mashonaland Central district, they realised that people living with HIV were still being stigmatised, hence many on treatment did not take their anti-retrovirals in public.
“Clients are not willing to be transferred to local clinics due to possible stigma and discrimination,” Takaona said.
He also said clients were no longer coming on designated review dates, but would then come on other days where they would not be seen.
“Clients are not willing to be decentralised due to possible stigma and discrimination,” Takaona said.
He also said there was a problem of health workers not revealing their status as they were avoiding stigma, adding that there was need for workplace workshops.
“Health workers do not want to open up with their HIV status, there is need for workplace workshops and empowerment,” Takaona said.
“With health workers having self-stigma, there is need for HIV-desensitisation at workplaces so that they feel free to disclose their statuses.”
HIV and Aids stigma is expressed in different ways, which include, rejection and avoidance of people with HIV, discrimination against people living with HIV, compulsory HIV testing without prior consent or protection of confidentiality and quarantine of persons with HIV.