Time to stop stigma in its Tracks!
Caribbean HIV Activists Declare for World AIDS Day
Time to stop stigma in its tracks! That’s the view of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) as Jamaica and the wider Caribbean observe World AIDS Day, December 1.
“We need to redouble efforts to combat stigma and discrimination which are drivers of the HIV epidemic in the Caribbean” says Dr. Carolyn Gomes, Executive Director of CVC.
The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition which brings together members of the most marginalized and affected groups in the fight against HIV welcomes the current focus on increasing access to appropriate health services. However, this goal will not be achieved without serious efforts by all to ensure that the barriers due to stigma and discrimination are eliminated.
World AIDS Day is an opportune moment for acknowledging that the barriers are real and affect members of the most vulnerable groups’ health seeking behaviour and their ability to access appropriate, lifesaving services. Among the most vulnerable are drug users, sex workers, marginalized youth and LGBT people who often don’t get tested for HIV. When they do access treatment they are more likely to drop out because they have had to move, are unable to afford services due to unemployment, or because they’re afraid to go to clinics where they may encounter negative attitudes and reception.
“Tolerance and acceptance are more than buzzwords” CVC Executive Director, Dr. Carolyn Gomes stresses “ they’re essential elements to ending the stigma and discrimination that can be fatal for people who exist on the fringes of society”.
CVC therefore calls on policy makers, health providers, families, communities and all engaged in the fight against HIV and AIDS to recognize that the Caribbean can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to or give tacit and even overt approval to the prejudice and discrimination meted out to marginalized groups.
World AIDS Day offers us an opportunity to pause to acknowledge and congratulate one another on how far we’ve come in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Let it also be a Day for renewing commitment. National HIV programmes, civil society, and international partners must continue to work together and do even more to change attitudes and protect the human rights of all.