This March 1st 2017 the International Community of Women Living with HIV marks Zero Discrimination day with a commitment to speak up and make some noise against HIV related stigma and discrimination particularly in health care settings.
Review of the People Living with HIV Stigma indexshows that in 22 countries, more than 10 percent of people living with HIV reported they had been denied health care because of their HIV positive status while data from 30 countries shows 1 in 10 people reported they had lost a job or source of income because of their HIV status.
A study conducted by ICW in 2014 to understand the perception, values and preferences of women living with HIV in Kenya, Namibia and Nigeria confirmed that women living with HIV continue to face persistent barriers to care such as stigma, discrimination and abuse when seeking maternal healthcare services including those to prevent vertical transmission.
There is a myriad of data that shows through our lived experience that stigma and discrimination can have horribly damaging effects on the health of women and girls and in most cases is the number one reason why we shy away from uptake and retention of HIV prevention and treatment interventions including HIV testing, adherence to anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services.
Lack of awareness among health workers of what stigma looks like and why it is damaging; fear of casual contact stemming from incomplete knowledge about HIV transmission; and the association of HIV with improper or immoral behavior are the three main reasons for human rights violation and abuse in health care settings.
Despite all this, Stigma and discrimination continues to receive minimal attention within HIV programming evidenced by minimal resources to prioritize interventions to address HIV and AIDS stigma in the HIV response.
“Zero Discrimination day is an opportunity to celebrate every woman and girl living with HIV in all our diversity, to share our stories and highlight our rights to live productive and healthy lives; - Rebecca Matheson, ICW Global Director
The current Global plans to fast track the end of AIDS by 2030 focus on implementing interventions to accelerate scale up of HIV prevention and treatment strategies. To realize these ambitious targets the Global and Country decision makers and development partners must spearhead innovative approaches to provide an enabling environment for uptake, use and retention to HIV prevention and care services at community and institutional levels including health facilities. In particular ICW asks;-
- Governments and Development partners to invest in interventions to end HIV related stigma at community and institutional level particularly health facilities.
- Global Stakeholders and community to update tools and frameworks for monitoring stigma to enable effective planning and development of responsive mitigation strategies.
- Communities to be tolerant, loving and respectful to people living with HIV particularly women and girls, to support our uptake of HIV prevention and treatment services needed to keep us alive and protect our loved ones from risk of HIV acquisition.
You can join online conversations by sharing your own interpretation of Zero discrimination on the #zerodiscrimination facebook page and on twitter under the tag #zerodiscrimination.
Join us today as we all make some noise against HIV stigma and discrimination!
 UNAIDS 2016, The Global AIDS Report
 L.Nyblade, A.Stangle, E.Weiss, K.Ashburn, 2015; Combating HIV stigma in health care settings; what works?