Keetmanshoop — The Karas Regional Police Commander, Commissioner Armas Shivute said curbing stigma and discrimination and human rights violations of people infected and affected by HIV/Aids should be a key priority of the police.
Shivute made the remarks in Keetmanshoop when he opened a one-day peer educators seminar on HIV and AIDS for members of the police from all stations in the regions. The training is aimed at integrating HIV/AIDS education into the standard police training programme in order to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Karas Region.
The HIV/AIDS peer education training seminar was organised by the Society for Family Health (SFH) in collaboration with the Police HIV Programme. He said it is imperative for the police to be trained on the appropriate tools and approaches that would help reduce the prevalence of stigma and discrimination, which are rampant in communities, including in workplaces.
"I want to make a special request to all police officers in the Karas Region - let us support our family members, neigbours, colleagues and friends who tested positive for HIV," he said. Shivute also pleaded with relatives of police officers who are on anti-retroviral treatment to provide them with the necessary care and support.
"They need your support to live normal lives," he said. "HIV and AIDS is a human rights issue in that lack of respect for human rights increases the spread and impact of the epidemic. Furthermore, the disease exposes people who are affected by the virus to various human rights violations through stigma and discrimination," said Shivute.
He further urged police force members to go for testing and counselling to know their status. Shivute said the training is aimed at informing members of the police force about how to protect themselves, their families and their communities from HIV/AIDS. "By training the police we will be better able to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region," said the regional commander.
Speaking on the sidelines of the workshop, participants said the police have embarked on numerous interventions to curb discrimination against people living with HIV. "We realized that most people do not go for testing and to access antiretroviral treatment (ART) due to the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. As such, through the sensitisation meetings we are conducting, we are able to reach such people," said Johannes Haufiku from SFH
Haufiku said the peer educator's seminar will develop strategies to promote health-seeking behaviours among police officers in the Karas Region. "The peer educators present here will be exposed to innovative strategies to prompt positive behavioural change among fellow police officers," he said.
The seminar will also deliberate on strategies identified in the National Strategy Framework, which lays emphasis on key strategic interventions such as social and behavioural change, counselling, condom use and male circumcision.
The seminar was facilitated by SFH senior HIV workplace officer, Trooiitha Zieglinde Jod. The seminar was attended by 14 female and nine males police officers, drawn from 14 police stations in the region.