UNAIDS urges countries to tackle HIV-related discrimination

Stigma and discrimination are preventing people living with HIV from accessing treatment, thus putting lives at risk.

The finding comes in a new report published on Tuesday by UNAIDS, which is working to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

It was launched during the Human Rights Council Social Forum, taking place this week in Geneva.

Dianne Penn reports.

UNAIDS says people living with HIV often avoid going to clinics because they fear their health status will be disclosed.

These fears are not unfounded as the report cites data from 19 countries which reveals that one in four people living with HIV have experienced discrimination in health-care settings.

Michel Sidibe is UNAIDS Executive Director:

"In some countries, over 40 per cent of transgender people avoid seeking healthcare because of who they are. People living with HIV who fear stigma because of homophobic laws�we have 70 countries with homophobic laws�are just running away. We are seeing more and more people who are injecting drugs going underground, continuing to infect their partners because they cannot come to seek healthcare services."

UNAIDS said that "when people living with HIV wait until they are very ill before seeking help, they are less likely to respond well to antiretroviral therapy."

The report recommends that the world needs to "step forward and confront discrimination" in order to reach all people living with, or at risk of, HIV.

It said that where programmes have been implemented to respond to stigma and discrimination, access to services for HIV prevention, testing and treatment has improved.

For example, one clinic in Namibia reported a 20 per cent reduction in deaths among people with HIV following a move to integrated health service delivery.

Source: United Nations Radio