Tufton urges end to HIV/AIDS stigma, discriminationMonday, May 13, 2019
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is calling for elimination of the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS, in order to stem the spread of the virus.
His appeal comes in light of the findings of the 2017 HIV/AIDS Knowledge, Attitude, Behaviour and Practice (KABP) survey, which not only indicated that accepting attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS remained low but declined from 14.3 per cent in 2012, when the last survey was done, to 11.6 per cent in 2017.
The survey, conducted by Hope Research Group, sampled 2,000 people aged 15-49. The findings were revealed at a function at Eden Gardens Wellness Resort and Spa in St Andrew last Thursday.
Among the questions posed was a willingness to purchase fresh vegetables from a vendor known to be HIV-positive, which is a common measure of a discriminatory attitude used in population-based surveys.
The research indicated that only 23.7 per cent of individuals, 15-49 years old, either agreed or strongly agreed that they were willing to buy fresh fruits and vegetables from a HIV-positive vendor.
Dr Tufton argued that it is this fear of stigma and rejection that contributes to a delay in people accessing HIV care.
“Persons, who may have signs and symptoms or who know their status, are unwilling to turn up at the hospitals or the clinics to be treated…hence increasing their risks,” he pointed out.
In emphasising his point, the minister cited the case of an actress in a local HIV education commercial who was branded as being an HIV patient.
“It really highlights the challenges we face in our society...We have to change that mindset...Let's stop the discrimination,” he stressed.
The minister also pointed to the 2017 United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS report regarding confronting discrimination, which noted that people living with HIV who perceive high levels of HIV-related stigma were 2.4 times more likely to present late for care.
“Part of what is coming out of the analysis is that a big part of the treatment and viral suppression and the failure to achieve higher targets is linked directly to the stigma issue. It is not unique to HIV; we are struggling as a society with mental illness and stigma also, where persons who are perceived to be mentally challenged are abandoned because they are 'mad' and not curable,” he said.