Ms Naomi Mattos, the Press Attaché at the US Embassy in Accra, has observed that HIV was no longer a disease but a condition, needing support to “kill” stigma and discrimination associated with it.
She said it was time people understood the condition to be an issue for everybody and shunned discriminatory attitudes.
Ms Mattos said this when she interacted with staff of the Ho Municipal Hospital as part of activities marking this year’s World AIDS Day and the 10th anniversary of US President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in Ghana.
PREFAR is campaigning on the sub theme “HIV Stigma and Discrimination Kills. Just Stop It”, and targeting 14 to 18 year olds with messages of prevention and protection.
“We need to recognise that we are part of the solution and not become a barrier”, Ms Mattos stressed and tasked the media to help lift up the campaign against stigma and discrimination to meet the 90-90-90 targets for 2020 and AIDS free world in 2030.
Agenda 90-90-90 means, 90 percent of persons will know their HIV status, 90 percent will be on antiretroviral drugs and 90 percent of people living with the condition would have viral suppression in subjecting the HIV and AIDS disease under control and avoid spread.
Mrs Dzid Enyonam Kwame, a Media Specialist with PEPFAR, noted that stigma continued to drive down progress in eradicating HIV in the country, and called for concerted efforts to address the challenge. She urged health workers and caregivers to lead the campaign against stigma by being professional on and off duty and encourage people to test and access care.
Mrs Kwame said confidentiality was key in eradicating stigma and asked health workers, the main source of hope for people with HIV condition to keep the trust. Reverend John Azumah, an HIV Ambassador, said health workers could help stop stigma by sticking to regulations on medical data.
He said stigma discouraged more than half of the estimated 350,000 people living with HIV in Ghana from seeking medical care, increasing the prevalence. Rev. Azumah said practices at health facilities such as name calling, folder marking and the designation of special beds to people with HIV condition should be stopped.
He asked people living with HIV condition to use a reporting platform developed by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice to seek redress.
Rev. Azumah called on stakeholders to consider the teaching of HIV care giving- in health training institutions to “kill” stigma and discrimination in student nurses before they got into the wards.
Mr Charles Torkonoo, Administrator of the Ho Municipal Hospital, said the facility planned on establishing a purposefully built and well-resourced anti-retroviral centre, with client friendly environment, and called for support.