United Nations (UN) has bemoaned the high levels of stigma and discrimination that people infected and/or affected by HIV and Aids face amid concerted efforts to end the vice.
Speaking in Lilongwe on Sunday during activities to mark this year’s International Aids Candlelight Memorial (IACM), UN resident coordinator Mia Seppo observed that despite the progress made in the fight against the pandemic in the past 30 years, HIV remains the most stigmatised and discriminated disease across the globe.
She said it is worrying that even those entrusted with responsibilities to provide treatment, care and support in health facilities, homes and communities are among those inciting the immoral conduct.
Said Seppo: “Stigma and discrimination are not only a tragedy by itself; they also contribute to driving the epidemic even further. Because of the fear of stigma and discrimination, many people are reluctant to seek information on HIV and to go for HIV counselling and testing.”
She stated that this, in turn, undermines collective efforts to control the pandemic in an era where treatment is readily available and where people living with HIV can live healthy and productive lives.
Speaking during the same event, Malawi Network of People Living with HIV (Manet+) board chairperson Joyce Mataya feared the situation could worsen if government and its development partners do not check reductions in financing HIV and Aids interventions.
She said the dwindling financial resources towards HIV and Aids activities has led to “heavy scaling down of operations and retrenchment of staff in organisations involved in the national HIV response.
“We do have fears that access to treatment will become an insurmountable mountain for people living with HIV. As a result, there will be increased trauma, compromised family care, poor health and ultimately increased mortality,” Mataya said.