New plan champions rights of people with HIV, TB

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Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, says the Human Rights Plan launched at Gugu Dlamini Park in Durban on Tuesday was developed to strengthen the human rights of people with HIV and Aids, TB and STIs.

The Minister called on government, civil society, the private sector and development partners to work together to ensure that the plan is executed in all parts of society, including in homes, communities, schools, institutions of higher learning and workplaces.

Mkhize said the plan is a comprehensive response to human rights and gender-related barriers to HIV and TB services. The plan will also tackle the stigma and discrimination faced by people when trying to access essential civic and health services.

“They experience the worst forms of stigma and discrimination at the hands of their families, community members and regrettably many civil servants,” Mkhize said.

The findings of the Stigma Index Survey conducted in 2014 painted a dire picture of the prevalence of stigma experienced by those affected and infected by HIV and TB.

“This challenge extends to other key and vulnerable populations such as sex workers and the LGBTIQ+ populations, especially transgender individuals.

“They experience the worst forms of stigma and discrimination at the hands of their families, community members and regrettably many civil servants,” Mkhize said.

The launch of the Human Rights Plan was held at Gugu Dlamini Park to honour Gugu Dlamini, a woman from KwaMancinza, eastern KwaZulu-Natal. She was killed after disclosing her HIV status on radio.

Mkhize praised Dlamini’s courageous spirit in disclosing her status.

“Dlamini’s untimely passing is indeed an example of the supreme price paid because we have not been able to fully address stigma and discrimination. Every one of us must redouble our efforts in ensuring that no one is discriminated,” the Minister said.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said the provincial government will continue with campaigns and mobilise communities to deal with persistently high levels of new infections.

“We remain concerned about new infections and the fact that adolescent girls and young women are disproportionately affected. This is an area we want to focus on as we move forward.

“We need to deal with all barriers that are experienced by people affected by HIV, Aids and TB. We must deal with social exclusion and discrimination in healthcare facilities, homes, recreational facilities, schools, churches, in the workplace and in other community gatherings,” Zikalala said.

Prior to the launch of the plan, the Premier joined a march organised by Aids activists. The march started in Dinizulu and ended at Gugu Dlamini Park where the launch took place.

Upholding of human rights is everybody’s business

Before the march, SAnews spoke to Zwo Nevhutalu, the South African National Aids Council (SANAC) Executive Manager, who expressed his desire for all South Africans to adopt a culture of upholding human rights.

“We want to end stigmatisation and discrimination of people living with HIV and Aids in our communities. We want to achieve a country that respects human rights.”

Nevhutalu said people living with HIV and Aids must be supported and get treatment so they can live longer and healthier.

Nokuthula Sibanyoni, a participant in the march, said that it is important that government conscientise people about the rights of people living with HIV and Aids.

“As people, we should learn to support and take care of each regardless of the situation. We must support our brothers and sisters who are affected by this disease,” Sibanyoni said.

Echoing the same sentiments was Jabulani Sikhakhane, who said people with HIV and Aids need to be supported and be shown love.

“Government must continue to conduct these campaigns. This will help people to understand that there is nothing wrong with people living with HIV and Aids. They are our brothers and sisters who need our support.”

The 9th SA Aids Conference is currently underway at the Durban International Convention Centre (ICC).

The theme for the 2019 Conference is ‘Unprecedented Innovations and Technologies: HIV and change’.

The conference is focusing on the unprecedented scientific, social and digital innovations/technologies which could expand possibilities and opportunities towards controlling the HIV and Aids epidemic.

It will also highlight milestones, initiatives, strategies, models, systems and best practice in accelerating the control of the HIV and Aids epidemic ahead of the 2020 global targets.

SANAC is one of the main sponsors of the conference and has organised an educational exhibition stand. – SAnews.gov.za

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