By Israel Bulus, Kaduna
As the world commemorates this year’s AIDS day, United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA) is seeking partnership to end stigmatization against people living with the virus.
UNFPA in a statement by its Executive Director, Dr. Nathalia Kanem stated that, in adopting the Sustainable Development Goals, the international community committed to ending AIDS by 2030 which can only be achieved by ensuring everyone’s right to health.
That statement read in part, “one new HIV infection is one too many – and in 2016 there were 1.8 million.
“This right is jeopardized when people face stigma and discrimination, and when they lack information, services and agency. Stigma and discrimination, which remain concretely present in communities all over the world, play a particularly incendiary role in continuing HIV transmission.
“When adolescent girls lack bodily autonomy; when they cannot prevent being married off as a child or protect themselves from HIV, other sexually transmitted infections or unintended pregnancies, they are denied their right to health.
“As a result, we see alarming and unacceptable rates of new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women, particularly in Africa. When young people face judgmental health-care providers and other cultural barriers that effectively block their access to information and services, they are not realizing their right to health.
“Often for the most marginalized and alienated in society, remaining hidden for personal safety or because of anticipated disapproval is perceived as the best way to live a life free from violence. However, this often means they are deprived of life-saving prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
“UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, has joined UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, to spearhead the Global HIV Prevention Coalition, working with governments, communities and partners to scale up prevention efforts in the most-affected countries and populations. We are working together to empower and protect our youth with knowledge through education.
“We are supporting and embracing vulnerable communities and key populations to enable them to access rights-based services and fulfill their potential.
“UNFPA calls on governments and communities to take the necessary steps to end stigma and discrimination as a cornerstone for ensuring the right to health for everyone. We must continue to promote inclusively and tolerance so that, together, we can end AIDS by 2030.