TANGO, in collaboration with UNAIDS, organised a two-day sensitization workshop on combating stigma and discrimination in HIV/AIDS for Civil Society Organizations, advocates and services providers for the welfare and rights of persons infected with HIV and AIDS.
It is essential that CSOs are themselves quite au fait with issues of stigma and discrimination and empowered to tackle all tendencies leading to stigma and discrimination through their awareness, advocacy and service delivery channels, activities and centres.
Madi Jobarteh, Programme officer at TANGO, welcomed the participants at the event on behalf of Mr Ousman Yabo, executive director of TANGO.
He thanked both TANGO and UNAIDS for organizing this important sensitization workshop for their partners.
He called on the participants at the workshop to share the knowledge gained from the workshop with those who haven't got the opportunity to attend it.
Declaring the two-day sensitization workshop open, Nuha Ceesay, UNAIDS National Coordinator in The Gambia, said it was as a result of the persistence and active involvement of civil society that they were able to break new grounds on HIV/AIDS; that is the societies living with HIV.
He said The Gambia established the National AIDS control programme in 1987 which was later changed to the National AIDS Committee, noting that the civil society was represented in that committee while in the National AIDS Council, he continues, the civil society organization also represented and TANGO had a sitting in the National AIDS Council, at the level of UNAIDS.
Mr Ceesay went on to say UNAIDS is the only UN-agency that has recognised the important role of civil society and therefore had required that the civil society has a sit on the programme coordinating board because civil society has a very strong say on the board of UNAIDS.
"At the level of global fund as well, civil society has a very wide representation there and even at the country level and I am saying all these things is to try and bring into perspective the important role that civil society would play in the global, regional, and national response to HIV," he explained.
According to Mr Ceesay today they are reporting more than 50 per cent drop in new HIV infections across 25 countries since 2001 thus 13 countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa, the region most affected by HIV, adding that the high prevalent countries like Malawi have seen a 73 per cent reduction in HIV infections and Botswana, a 71 per cent drop.
"South Africa, the country with the largest HIV epidemic, has achieved 41 per cent reduction since 2001and in the last two years it has reduced the number of new HIV infections by 12 per cent from 430,000 to 380, 000 and South Africa has also scaled up HIV treatment by 75 per cent in the last two years thus ensuring 1.7 million people had access," Mr Ceesay revealed.
Speakers on the occasion included Mr Ousman Badgie, executive director of the National Aids Secretariat.