The Minister of the Presidency, Hon Esther Mbayo, has revealed that despite the progress made in ending AIDS, HIV related stigma and discrimination could reverse the gains.
Mbayo was speaking to Journalists on Friday May 7 ahead of the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day which will be held on May 27, 2021, under the theme; “HIV Stigma-Free Workplaces: Journey to Ending AIDS by 2030.”
She said that despite the significant progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, bringing down the prevalence from 18% in the 80s to 6%, HIV stigma is reducing at a slower pace.
“We are focusing on stigma because it is one of those seemingly small issues that have the potential to reverse all the gains that we have made as a country. When someone knows that they will be labeled as being promiscuous if found HIV positive, they will not test for HIV or they will go out of their immediate environment to test in other districts where they are not known,” she said.
Mbayo added that for such people, if they are found to be HIV positive, accessing treatment, disclosure, adherence to medication and achieving viral suppression will be a challenge.
She further stated that the same applies to workplaces.
“Someone who is HIV positive might not disclose their status to their employer for fear of not getting a job or even losing it. This person will most likely not adhere to their medication for fear of others finding out about their HIV status, leading to ill health, absenteeism, and loss of productivity,” Mbayo explained.
Adding: “Although the Uganda Aids Commission (UAC) has developed an anti-stigma policy that is being disseminated countrywide, it is only one of the many items the country needs to focus on, if we are to fight stigma and achieve the goal of ending HIV as a public health threat by 2030.”
Mbayo urged members of the public to desist from discriminating against people living with HIV.
“Being HIV positive is not a sign that someone is promiscuous or immoral. It is not a sign that you are cursed. Anyone can have HIV/AIDS. We should therefore avoid labeling and gossiping about people who have HIV/AIDS because such affects them psychologically causing more harm than the virus in their bodies,” she said.