By Bridgett Milton
The National Aids Commission of Liberia in collaboration with partners has planned a three-day conference to end stigmatization and discrimination here.
Addressing a news conference on Tuesday, August 15, 2023, in Monrovia, the Chairperson for the National Aids Commission, Theodosia Kolee, said the conference, which runs from August 31- September 2, 2023, will be held under the Theme, “End Stigma and Discrimination; Get Involve!” It is aimed at strengthening coordination and collaboration in holistically addressing societal stigma, discrimination, and violence against people living with HIV.
Madam Kolee says over the years, people living with HIV, key and vulnerable populations have suffered different forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination in the country.
“They have been denied access to healthcare services, job opportunities, education amongst others in society that belongs to everyone.”
She notes that at some points, they experienced verbal insults, harassment, and threats, while others have suffered physical assaults and intimidation because of their HIV status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
She adds that HIV-related stigma and discrimination negatively affect the health, lives, and well-being of people, who are at high risk, including key populations, something she describes as a nightmare that needs a collective fight in addressing the impacts of HIV on the country.
She underscores that now is the time for all stakeholders to combine efforts to address violence, hate, and inequalities as a result of stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV, key populations, and other vulnerable groups.
The NAC Chairperson notes that as a signatory to the Global Partnership for the Elimination of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, the Commission in collaboration with partners has planned the conference to raise awareness about the negative effects of stigma and discrimination on key populations and vulnerable groups.
She says discussions at the conference will be directed at identifying key priorities for a more effective response to stigma, discrimination, and violence against key and vulnerable populations in Liberia to improve understanding of stigma, discrimination, and violence, and the effect they have on persons living with HIV, key populations and vulnerable groups.
Madam Kolee continues that it is particularly important to know that stigma and discrimination have continued to undermine national efforts to address the impact of HIV-related rights and other public health issues.
“The Commission and its partners remain persistent and definite in taking concrete and committed actions to address stigma and discrimination to meet the global target of ending AIDS by 2030”.
She is optimistic that efforts to achieve the 2030 goal to end AIDS virus will be translated into measurable policy change and programmatic interventions to guarantee HIV-related rights for people who suffer stigma and discrimination.
She calls on policymakers and state actors to take action in tackling stigma and discrimination by ensuring that all existing HIV-related discriminatory laws, regulations, and policies on the books are repealed and that persons living with HIV and members of key populations have access to justice and can challenge rights violations. Editing by Jonathan Browne