MONROVIA – Delegates at the two-day National Anti-Stigma, Discrimination, and Advocacy Conference have presented a 10-point resolution to the Government of Liberia, urging the review and repeal of discriminatory laws that contribute to stigma against persons living with HIV (PLHIV), key populations (KP), and adolescent girls and women (AGYW). The resolution also calls for government intervention to safeguard their rights and dignity.
By Gerald C. Koinyeneh – [email protected]
Chairman of Libpride, an alliance of civil society organizations advocating for minority groups and key populations, Evan Adofe, read the resolution on Friday, encouraging religious and traditional leaders to spearhead campaigns against HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
In the resolution, the group expressed gratitude to the Government of Liberia, USAID, PEPFAR, and the Global Fund for their support on behalf of PLHIV and key populations, including adolescent girls and young women. The resolution also acknowledged the European Union, Swedish Embassy, and other development partners for recognizing the impact of stigma and discrimination on the HIV and AIDS response and for their support of the conference.
The two-day conference was organized by Liberia’s National AIDS Commission (NAC) in collaboration with its partner, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and took place at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, with the theme “Get Involved and End Stigma Discrimination.”
The resolution acknowledged PEPFAR and its partners’ substantial contribution to the global HIV and AIDS response, which has saved over 25 million lives in the past two decades. The group recognized Liberia’s progress in its national HIV response, although it expressed concern about persistently high levels of stigma and discrimination, which hinder access to HIV prevention, testing, and treatment services for many Liberians.
The group called on religious and traditional leaders to lead a compassion campaign against HIV-related stigma and discrimination and support the full implementation of the U=U (Undetectable=Untransmittable) campaign. It also urged the Independent National Human Rights Commission to strengthen the existing complaint desk and redress mechanism for HIV-related human rights violations.
Prior to the conference, a two-day media training was organized to enhance the reporting skills of several journalists, with a focus on issues impacting persons living with HIV and other key populations. The group called on the media to refrain from promoting and broadcasting inciting and discriminatory messages targeting people with HIV and other key populations, and instead, foster healthy partnerships with communities to enhance the response to stigma and discrimination.
The resolution called on all stakeholders to increase investments in strengthening the capacities of community-led organizations to accelerate community-led responses, monitoring, and progress toward achieving the 30-60-80 targets for HIV control.
The group implored the Government of Liberia to demonstrate greater leadership, ownership, and commitment to achieving HIV epidemic control, aligning with SDG 3.3 to end HIV as a public health threat by 2030. It also called for the active participation and inclusion of PLHIV, KP, and AGYW in program and policy design, implementation, and monitoring to enhance programming effectiveness.
Furthermore, the advocacy group called for the provision of HIV services in an environment free from stereotypes, stigma, and discrimination at all levels. They encouraged increased support and investments in the National HIV and AIDS response, advocating for localization and social contracting to facilitate community-led service delivery.
The resolution also stressed the need for enhanced data security and privacy and the strengthening of national capacity for data-driven decision-making and program design.
The Chairperson of the National AIDS Commission, Theodosia Kolee, urged conference participants to carry the message of non-discrimination to their communities, emphasizing that ending AIDS is contingent on addressing stigma and discrimination.
Kolee emphasized the importance of avoiding stigmatization and discrimination within Liberian communities.
“We are all Liberian, and leaving from here today is a sign that going in our community, we have to tell our people that there should be no more stigmatization and discrimination because when you stigmatize people, they will go away and our country HIV status will increase,” she said.
She said out of the total population of 5 million people, 34,431 people are living with HIV and AIDS. And the government of Liberia and its partner do not want the number to further climb up.
“We don’t want the number to exceed. Let us avoid stigmatization. we should not stigmatize, we should not discriminate, let us hold together and embrace each other and fight HIV.”
She concluded by warning that to achieve the 2030 target for ending HIV and AIDS in Liberia, stigma and discrimination must be eradicated, urging unity and support for the cause.