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Malawi commemorates Zero Discrimination Day

A cross-section of People Living with HIV, Government officials, UNAIDS and other stakeholders in the national HIV and AIDS Response joined the world in commemorating Zero Discrimination Day on 1st March 2016 in Lilongwe.

Speaking during the commemoration, Chief of Health Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Charles Mwansambo, said it very unfortunate to note that people living with HIV are still being discriminated against even 30 years after the first case of HIV was diagnosed in Malawi.

 

“It is unfortunate to hear some real life stories about HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination because everyone deserves the right to dignity and to live a healthy life,” Dr. Mwansambo said.

He, therefore, called for no room for HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.

In his remarks, National AIDS Commission (NAC) Acting Executive Director, Davie Kalomba, said the National Response to HIV and AIDS recognises the centrality of globally accepted human rights, including the rights to equality, dignity, life, freedom, security and privacy of the person.

“This recognition is based on the understanding that public interest is best served when the rights of those living with HIV, or those at risk of HIV infection, are respected, protected and promoted.

“It is for this reason that the National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan 2015-2020 takes as its starting point the constitutional recognition that access to healthcare and other social services, which include reproductive healthcare, is a human right, and therefore must be enjoyed by all people including but not limited to women, men, adolescents, children, people living with disabilities, and other key and vulnerable populations,” Davie Kalomba said.

He also reiterated NAC’s commitment to continue collaborating with appropriate state organs to ensure a better and enabling legal and health services environment, where people living with HIV, key and vulnerable populations enjoy social and legal protection.

He added that NAC and its partners would continue to advocate for and sensitise the communities on the rights of people living with HIV and sensitise all sectors to embrace key populations in their service delivery interventions.

In her remarks, UNAIDS Country Director, Amakobe Sande, said stigma and discrimination hinder the ability to access health services and to live a productive life.

“Stigma and discrimination needlessly increase the suffering associated with HIV, affect the overall well-being and health of those affected, and undermine the ability of People Living with HIV to remain productive, self-supporting and reach their full human potential,” Sande said.

During the event, People Living with HIV shared their experiences of discrimination which included verbal insults, name-calling, and disclosure of HIV status without their consent.

March 1 is commemorated annually worldwide as Zero Discrimination Day in order to promote diversity and recognize that everyone counts.

The UN first celebrated Zero Discrimination Day on March 1, 2014, after UNAIDS, a United Nations program on HIV and AIDS, launched its Zero Discrimination Campaign on World AIDS Day in December 2013.

The symbol for Zero Discrimination Day is the butterfly, widely used by people to share their stories and photos as a way to end discrimination and work towards positive transformation.

                                                            

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