Liberia Rallies Partners To Address Stigma and Discrimination To End HIV By 2030 With PEPFAR’s Support
By: Melvin Jackson
The Liberian Government through the National AIDS Commission is rallying partners in the National HIV response in the country to address societal stereotyped stigma and discrimination.
The Commission said in ensuring that HIV-related stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV, key populations and other vulnerable groups, it has planned a two-day National Stigma, Discrimination and Advocacy training to seek combined effort in addressing stigma and discrimination.
The conference is funded by US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID/Liberia and supported by the PEPFAR/LIBERIA Interagency team including the Department of Defense and the Health Resources and services administration.
Expected to be held under Theme: “Get Involved; End Stigma and Discrimination” the conference which runs from August 31-September 1, 2023, aims to bring stakeholders in Liberia’s HIV response together to strengthen coordination and collaboration to address societal stigma, discrimination and violence against key and vulnerable groups in Liberia as a pathway to ending AIDS by 2030 as public health threat.
The Commission in a press statement issued in Monrovia said, stigma and discrimination remain serious setback to the country’s HIV response.
Madam Theodosia S. Kolee, Chairperson of the National AIDS Commission said concrete and definite actions against stigma and discrimination that are being directed at persons living with HIV, key and vulnerable groups are needed to end AIDS by 2023.
Madam Kolee said over the years, people living with HIV, key and vulnerable populations have suffered different forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, thus making HIV response for the country difficult.
“HIV-related stigma and discrimination negatively affect the health, lives, and well-being of people who are at high risk, including key populations,” Madam Kolee said.
According to the AIDS Commission boss, the conference will raise awareness on the negative effect of stigma and discrimination on people living with HIV, key populations, and other vulnerable groups.
“Madam Kolee: “This will strengthen coordination and collaboration to address societal stigma, discrimination, and violence against key and vulnerable populations with HIV holistically,” Madam Theodosia Kolee.
She disclosed that the conference will allow participants to identify key priorities that bring about effective responses to stigma, discrimination, and violence against key and vulnerable populations.
“At the conference participants will brainstorm through panel discussions how to improve people’s understanding on stigma, discrimination, violence, and the effect they have on persons living with HIV, key populations, and other vulnerable groups.” She said.
Stakeholders and policymakers are also expected to make commitment in creating an enabling environment to allow key populations, and persons living with HIV enjoy their universal human rights void of stigma, discrimination and hate.
According to her, 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.
“We hope that efforts to achieve the 2030 goal to end AIDS will be translated into measurable policy change and programmatic interventions to guarantee HIV-related rights for people who suffer stigma and discrimination”, Madam Kolee noted.
To ensure an environment free from all forms of stigma and discrimination, Madam Kolee said the commission wants all existing HIV-related discriminatory laws, regulations, and policies to be repealed so that persons living with HIV and members of key population groups can access justice and can challenge rights violations.
The AIDS Commission boss said homophobic behaviors and unequal treatment against key populations, persons living with HIV, and vulnerable groups are not the best option to end AIDS, and leaving these people behind means our response or efforts to end AIDS are not good enough.