The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Intensify Campaign to Address Stigma and Discrimination in HIV/Aids Campaign

editorial

RWANDA has stepped up efforts to prevent new HIV infections to achieve the 2015 global target of zero new infections. The country has come up with several strategies that have seen the prevalence rates drop over time to 3%. However one crucial aspect that experts believe needs more focus as well is the fight against stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS.

Along side testing and counseling there should be a deliberate policy to encourage people to disclose their HIV status. However, because of stigma many people don't reveal or live in denial. HIV and AIDS experts say that stigma and discrimination is common especially for those who come out to disclose their HIV status publicly. As a result many people fear to go for voluntary testing and counseling. Those who test and find themselves positive also fear to disclose or else they are stigmatised.

HIV/AIDS experts say that disclosure is one of the key strategies of addressing HIV/AIDS. However, fear of disclosure due to fear of stigma is hindering this strategy. It is a set back in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Some people living with HIV/AIDS live in fear of going through horrifying experiences like in case they declare. They are living in silence with HIV keeping it a secret for fear of stigmatisation. However there are examples of people who have disclosed and are living a normal life. Such people should be used as ambassadors to encourage others living in denial to disclose. The story of Juditha Mukabalisa, 52 in today's Sunday Times is an example of how stigma can be over come. When she found out that she had HIV following the death of her husband, she went into hiding. But when she later got the courage to disclose and leave positively, she has since become a role model in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

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