KAMPALA, Uganda – The unjust or prejudicial treatment of people living with HIV/ AIDS is still experienced across Uganda. This is a great cause for concern.
There has not been any proof that shows how discrimination against people living with HIV leads to the decrease in its prevalence.
According to UNAIDS, in 2018, Uganda had 1.4 million people living with HIV; the number of new infections among the uninfected population over a year – among all people of all ages was 1.4% and the percentage of people living with HIV among adults 15-49 years was 5.7%.
Despite the progress made in preventing and treating HIV, people living with HIV still face considerable difficulty as a result of stigma and discrimination which negatively impacts the efforts made towards slowing its spread.
In a recent legal aid outreach by UGANET with paralegals at St. Francis Health Centre III in Arua District, issues of discrimination towards people living with HIV were reported to be common in the area.
The UGANET Partnership and Training Department, headed by Falal Rubanga, is tasked with carrying out training and sensitization of different constituents including people living with HIV/AIDS. UGANET endeavours to play its part by training and teaching people living with HIV their rights such as access to legal care, access to ARVs and among other rights.
“Often, people living with HIV experience depression and develop negative self-image and low self-esteem which in turn affects the way they live socially and economically. The emotional well-being and mental health of people living with HIV are greatly affected by Stigma around HIV and discrimination of such persons,” said Falal.
As a result of HIV related stigma, people not only lose their jobs, reputation, child bearing options, marriages, friendships and livelihood, but also lose their lives.
“Many people living with HIV continue to lose their lives as a result of their fear of stigmatization and discrimination that holds them back from seeking medical assistance and medication such as ARVs,” she added.
Stigma and discrimination not only affect people living with HIV but also affect HIV response since those living with HIV and are aware of their status fear to disclose it. Those who are unaware of their status continue to put others at risk, which may result in high HIV prevalence and a high rate of infections.
The government and other stakeholders have a crucial role to play in ensuring ongoing sensitization aimed at reducing stigma as well as ensuring people living with HIV are aware of their rights and have access to the crucial healthcare.