Stigma, discrimination causing hindrance to healthcare delivery- stakeholders

Stakeholders in the HIV and AIDS space say access to health care delivery continues to be a hindrance to persons living with HIV (PLHIV) and Tuberculosis (TB), due to stigmatization and discrimination.

According to the Ghana Aids Commission (GAC) and stakeholders, stigmatization and discrimination situation had still not been dealt with, affecting PLHIV and TB persons, hence the need for a broader approach to address the issues.

This became known at the third annual stakeholder implementation review meeting of a five-year comprehensive response to Human rights related barriers to HIV and TB Strategic Plan, developed by the GAC in collaboration with stakeholders

The goal of the plan was to remove human rights related barriers to HIV and TB services and to improve access to quality healthcare and support services through pragmatic implementation services.

Dr. Rita Owusu- Amankwah, Director, Policy and Planning at the GAC said the third review meeting was necessary, to ensure effective implementation of the
plan, ascertain status of implementation, identify gaps, challenges and actions needed to accelerate implementation.

Dr Owusu-Amankwah said stigma continued to be an issue as PLHIV and TB were discriminating against themselves and that of the public, preventing them from enjoying their human rights as citizens.

She said: ‘We needed to find ways of removing stigma, once stigma is there, then discrimination follows and so if we do not deal with it, it will mean that PLHIV and TB persons will be discriminated against and prevented from accessing health care, having full joyous and fruitful lives as well as contributing to the overall development of the nation.’

The Director of Policy and Planning stated that the strategic plan was necessary, which would guide stakeholders to implement interventions that would eliminate stigma and discrimination by bringing everyone together.

She expressed concern that the committee did not have a dedicated funding for the implementation of the plan, which was challenging, ad
ding that bringing stakeholders on board would determine what each of them was tackling and be able to allocate funds when they receive any.

Ms Irene Kpodo, Project Manager, NAP + Ghana, stressed that stigma persisted among community members and it was important to highlight the fact that HIV was no longer a threat or a death sentence as projected to be in previous times.

She said: ‘HIV is an infection, it is just like someone with diabetes and hypertension and needs to take his or her medications to stay healthy but the other concern is that the negative attitude and misinformation at the workplace, hospitals, schools and administration of justice remains a challenge.’

She called for holistic interventions to tackle the menace so that stigma and discrimination would be reduced and enable HIV and TB persons to be respected and promoted.

Dr Raphael Adu-Gyamfi, Programme Officer, Clinical Care Unit, National Aids Control Programme (NACP), stressed that stigma and discrimination was a major barrier to HIV se

delivery in Ghana, which prevented people from knowing their status, taking their medications, and visiting the health facility when necessary.

He said the attitude of some healthcare workers was a major contributing factor to stigma and discrimination, preventing HIV and TB persons from visiting the facilities to the detriment of their health.

Dr Adu-Gyamfi made it known that among other interventions, the NACP would inculcate discipline into the curriculum of trainee nurses while in school to enable them avoid stigma against their clients at the health facilities.

‘Currently, there is a huge knowledge gap about HIV, the education has gone down and we need to start educating the populace on HIV again for everyone to know what is going on,’ he added.

Source: Ghana News Agency