29 January 2013

Zimbabwe: National HIV Stigma Index Set for March

The Zimbabwe National Network for Positive People (ZNNP+) is set to produce the National HIV Stigma Index in March this year. The index is the first robust attempt to establish a base line for documenting the stigma and discrimination experienced and overcome by HIV positive people in the country.

Programme coordinator for the Stigma Index Mr Tonderai Chiduku yesterday said the research on stigma would be carried in all districts across the country.

"The designing for the research is at an advanced stage and we expect to be on the ground by March," said Mr Chiduku.

"Recruitment of research assistants and supervisors is already on the cards for the exercise."

He said they were being sponsored by the UNAIDS and International Plan for Parenthood Foundation.Other partners working with ZNNP+ in the programme include Safaids, Zimbabwe Aids Network, Simbarashe Network, World Vision and the National Aids Council.

Christians from the apostolic sect organisation UDACISA and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe have also been roped in.Patron of the Stigma Index, former Health Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said the programme was important in defining the extend of stigma and discrimination.

"This is a very useful tool to gauge stigma levels and what the Zimbabwean people generally think about HIV and Aids," said Dr Parirenyatwa.

"It will be a key strategic component to ensure establishment of a good bench mark to measure our progress in the fight against the disease."

He said their goal was ultimately to achieve Zero tolerance to HIV stigma and discrimination, which were barriers to accessing HIV prevention, treatment and care services.

According to international law, Aids related stigma and discrimination refers to the prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse and maltreatment of people living with HIV and Aids.

These negative attitudes result in those living with the disease being shunned by family, peers and the wider community.

It also leads to poor treatment in healthcare and education settings, erosion of rights, psychological damage and could negatively affect the success of HIV testing and treatment.

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