Stigma against PLHIV still exits – PEPFAR – The United States Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Response (PEPFAR) has stated that stigma and discrimination against Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) still exists even though it seems not to receive as much attention as it used to.
The outbreak of COVID-19 seems to take away attention on other epidemics like HIV and AIDS. This issue came to light again during the opening address of Dr Michael Melchior, the PEPFAR Coordinator and Country Director, Centre for Disease Control (CDC-Ghana) at a virtual training of journalist in health reporting. The training was organized by PEPFAR is its partners.
He mentioned that “stigmatization and discrimination have hampered PEPFAR’s efforts at identifying new positives, putting patients on treatment and ensuring viral suppression.”
Since 2018, PEPFAR has spent approximately USD 85 billion on about 18 million people living with HIV and has helped in preventing the spread of the virus.
With infection prevention and control as its aim, PEPFAR chose to make Ghana its hub for the West African subregion and has been supporting Ghana’s goals towards controlling the HIV and helping in the provision of a positive response that will eventually move Ghana out of the epidemic zone.
Giving facts on PEPFAR’s work, the coordinator further revealed that “From October to March, a total of 1,791 new positives have been identified, and of those who are on treatment and received a viral load test, 73% were virally suppressed. As of June, 96% of new positives are being linked to treatment.”
He also called the media to utilize all of its “professional communication tools and wide reach to transform the erroneous perception of the wider society about HIV and AIDS”
Dr Melchior was optimistic that the successes that will be chalked in that direction would go a long way to support the UNAIDS’ global target at ensuring that 95% of all people know their HIV status, that 95% of persons who know their status are on sustained antiretroviral therapy and 95% of all persons on treatment have suppressed viral loads.
With the code name U=U, all actors in the HIV and AIDS who are now targeting the situation where all those living with HIV will reach a stage of viral suppression to an extent where they would test undetectable since “undetectable equals untransmittable” thus U=U
The new target code named U=U is based on a scientific study that HIV can’t be transmitted by a PLHIV whose viral load is below 200.
On her part, Vice President of the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) Madam Linda Asante-Agyei told journalists who were going to be part of the five-week journey of training to be “deliberate in using responsible language and reportage that does not injure the sensibilities of persons infected or affected by HIV and AIDS”.
She bluntly said, “Stigma can undermine social cohesion and prompt possible social isolation of groups, which might contribute to a situation where the virus is more, not less, likely to spread. This can result in more severe health problems and difficulties controlling a disease outbreak.”
The training is held by with PEPFAR and its partners viz; Media Health Link and the African Centre for Development Reporting will also take a look at equipping journalists on reporting on COVID-19 focusing on stigma against persons infected by the global pandemic.
The training comes in handy as the COVID-19 epidemic seems to be having the attention of health journalists across the globe. The training will last five weeks and will be done virtually. Participants are expected to undertake some course work as part of the training.
Stigma against PLHIV still exits – PEPFAR