Freetown — Sierra Leone has joined the world over to observe Zero Discrimination Day on HIV and other diseases on the theme: "Stand out and encourages everyone to stand for fair and just societies".
Addressing the Press on Tuesday March 1, 2016 at the Health Ministry's conference hall in Freetown, the Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation 1, Foday Sawi Lahai while speaking on the theme observed that discrimination remains widespread in gender, nationality, age, ethnic origin, religion or even HIV and Ebola.
He reminded journalists that society values have also condemned key populations such as those living with HIV, EVD survivors, women and people with disability, pointing out that health care setting, communities and workplaces should be considered as safe and caring environment for vulnerable.
"Any obstacles that inhibit access to healthcare facilities that destroy self-esteem must be removed" he comments. He continues that access to health, respect for the other and the dignity of every person regardless of their biological, gender, social, economic circumstances must be guaranteed by law and practice.
The government of Sierra Leone with other partners he said is working to ensure that stigma and discrimination does not exist.
UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Michael Frank Gboun described the zero discrimination commemoration as a transformation of society that demands all voices to come together to talk about what he referred to as one big problem that is affecting all of us.
The Director observed that people with no physical, mental or disease challenges, are the once pointing fingers, avoiding and gossiping others who have challenges, adding that the role of achieving zero discrimination in the world rest on everybody. "Everyone should live a full life with dignity irrespective of where they came from, what they do, color, religion they should be given space to live a full and productive life", he told the press.
He intimated the press that in June 2016, Sierra Leone will also join the UN General Assembly in New York to sign the Political Declaration to ending AIDS by 2030.
He revealed that the discrimination against affected persons discourage 54,000 people living with HIV not to come out for treatment and only thirty percent know their status, pointing out that the discrimination is hampering their three thousand HIV positive pregnant women not to come and receive services.
Director General, National AIDS Secretariat (NAS), Dr. Momodu Sesay in his remarks said that the 1st March every year was a day set aside to commemorate and create awareness about stigma and discrimination against many people affected by ailment or disease condition or state, adding that it is a day that provides an opportunity to inform people about the experiences of HIV, Ebola survivors, disable people, commercial sex workers, teenage pregnancy about stigma and discrimination in the country.