End the stigma—NAS tells gov’t on World Aids Day

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In a joint statement on World Aids Day, today, the National Aids Secretariat and the National Human Rights Commission have demanded an end to the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV and AIDS.

This year’s slogan, “EQUALIZE”, they said, is a call for action towards the goal of ensuring that all of us work to address “all forms of inequalities which affect people living with HIV and AIDS, and ensure they live in dignity and are able to enjoy their fundamental human rights and freedom”.

Paying tribute to those living with the virus, the joint statement urges the Gambia government to do more in addressing their plight.

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“It is unfortunate that after many decades since The Gambia had her first case of HIV and AIDS, we continue to advocate for zero discrimination and stigma against people infected and affected by HIV AIDS, and the creation of an equal, inclusive society for all,” the statement noted. 

It added: “People living with HIV and AIDS in The Gambia continue to face challenges accessing their right to health care services due to stigma and discrimination, despite the enactment of the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act 2015. The Commission on Human Rights in its 2001 resolution recognised the right to the highest attainable standard of health includes access to antiretroviral therapy for HIV. Respecting, protecting, and fulfilling the human rights of persons living with HIV and AIDS are integral to the creation of an equal society. Thus, it is important that all stakeholders reflect the human rights dimensions of access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support in all their programmes, and in our laws and policies.

To upheld its responsibilities towards persons living with HIV and AIDS, the joint statement recommends amongst others the acceleration of “reforms of laws and policies, and ensure their effective enforcement and implementation, to tackle the stigma and exclusion faced by people living with HIV and by key and marginalised populations, so that everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

“Develop, as recommended in the Government White Paper on the TRRC Report, HIV and AIDS programmes and strategies to improve equitable access to quality HIV treatment, testing, care, and support services.”