Deputy Minister Mangwiro flanked by HIV/AIDS stakeholders

WHILE Zimbabwe is on track to attaining the  UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, rising incidences of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and sub population groups could derail the gains achieved so far.

This was revealed during the launch of the Zimbabwe Stigma INDEX 2.0 Report in Harare where findings indicated that the overall stigma and discrimination in Zimbabwe was currently sitting at 69.7 percent, compared to 65.5 percent recorded in the 2014 Stigma Index report.

According to the findings, stigma was highest in people who identified as Transgender where 97 percent respondents who were interviewed in the survey indicated that they experienced stigma related to their HIV status, 77.7 Sex Workers reported to have experienced stigma and 62 percent of Men who have sex with Men (MSM) also experienced HIV related stigma.

Launching the Zimbabwe Stigma Index Report, Dr John Mangwiro, the deputy Minister of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) said the Zimbabwean government was determined to confront and end all forms of stigma and discrimination against PLHIV.

We have received the latest findings on the country’s status with regards to HIV stigma and discrimination. It is sad that 69.7 percent of PLHIV still experience various forms of HIV related stigma and discrimination compared to 65.5 percent in 2014,” said Dr Mangwiro.

Dr Mangwiro added that the high levels of stigma and discrimination against Key populations and PLHIV in general was not good for the national HIV response.

“Moreso, amongst Key Populations living with HIV, 78.9 percent of those interviewed indicated having experienced various forms of stigma and discrimination. Also worrying is the 48.5 percent of people living with HIV reported experiencing internalized stigma and among these, 57.5 percent of young people reported to experience internalized stigma. That must go.

“While indeed Zimbabwe has always been a trailblazer in the response to the HIV epidemic and we are on track for the 95-95-95, stigma continues to hamper our efforts. We therefore need to strengthen the multi-sectoral approach to renew and recommit to ending stigma and discrimination if we are to meet global targets to reduce HIV related stigma to less than 10 percent and end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.”

According to the new UNAIDS 10-10-10 targets,  by 2025 less than 10 percent of countries should have punitive legal and policy environments that deny or limit access to services, less than 10 percent of people living with HIV and key populations will experience stigma and discrimination, and less than 10 percent of women, girls, people living with HIV.

Mr Tatenda Makoni, the Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP+) Executive Director said, the stigma index report was a critical step in informing the National AIDS response in Zimbabwe.

“Stigma and discrimination remains one of the key barriers towards realizing our Global targets towards realizing the 95-95-95 by 2030. It continues to hamper our efforts towards ending AIDS by 2030. The Global AIDS strategy knows that inequalities are presented by stigma and discrimination and therefore can also be eradicated,” said Mr Makoni.

He however added that stigma and discrimination against PLHIV can only be eradicated if
there acknowledgment of stigma and discrimination's existence and  it must be quantified 
or measured in order to inform decision making. 

“The Stigma INDEX Report provides that opportunity to be able to systematically measure the HIV and AIDS pandemic and also the stigma and discrimination which comes as a result. Thirdly, what do we do about the stigma and discrimination?”

The report also gathered that participants reported negative experiences from staff when seeking health care services. 7.7 percent heard that other people talk about their HIV status without their consent, 9.9 percent being gossiped about their HIV status and 17.9 percent discontinued Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).

Meanwhile, presenting the findings from the Stigma Index Report, Mr Tonderai M. Mwareka the ZNNP+ Program Officer said Zimbabwe, “…overall experience of stigma and discrimination was 69.7 percent. This means 69.7 percent of the study participants reported that they had experienced one or more forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination. We are supposed to be going towards zero percent but here you can see that we are going towards 100 percent, which is the opposite of what we need,” said Mr Mwareka.

Organizations that were instrumental in developing the Stigma Index Report include the Ministry of Health and Child Care, National AIDS Council (NAC) Clinton Health Access (CHAI), Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), Znnp+ among others. 32 community-based organization (CBOs) of People Living with HIV with presence in the survey districts were involved in the data collection process. The study was made possible with financial support from UNAIDS, PEPFAR, USAID, OPHID and ZIMTTECH. — HealthTimes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *