A FOUR-DAY workshop is underway in the capital to address stigma and discrimination as barriers to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services.
The workshop also aims to reinforce Namibia's readiness to carry out advocacy work on reducing HIV infections and HIV-related deaths in Key Populations (KPs) that include sex workers, men sleeping with men (MSM), and women sleeping with women (WSW) and others.
It is conducted by the new regional Global Fund programme - Key Populations Representation, Evidence and Advocacy for Change in Health (KP REACH). KP REACH falls under the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS).
The programme has been introduced in eight countries in the Southern African Development Community region: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Namibia.
The programme has a strong component of working with highly influential leaders, called champions, drawn from the health and justice sectors, as well as political, religious and traditional leaders.
The champions will have to fight stigma and discrimination to reducing discriminatory practices within these sectors and society at large.
The objective of the workshop is to strengthen the country level champions' stakeholders network, action and influence on the reduction of discriminatory practices as barriers to access HIV prevention, testing and treatment services for KPs.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Psycho-sexual Educator, Delene van Dyke said funding is used to address stigma and discrimination of KPs, for them to have better access to health, and for some social, political change to happen.
"During the workshop, champions will be capacitated to help KPs with access to health services where they may find it difficult," she said.
Topics such as understanding the law and human rights, how to do advocacy, and advocacy strategies will be discussed.
Other topics include how to tackle stigma and discrimination, as well as sharing of preliminary formative and baseline study findings.
Established in 1994, SAfAIDS is a regional non-profit organisation based in Harare. It uses advocacy, communication and social mobilisation strategies to influence changes in policy and social practices.