Hon Esther Mbayo, the Minister for Presidency has said that internal stigma and discrimination against the people living with HIV/AIDS remains a significant barrier in Uganda’s fight against the scourge.
Hon Mbayo revealed this while addressing the media in Kampala along with officials from the Uganda AIDS Commission.
“If we are to end AIDS by 2030, we need to fight stigma and discrimination. However, this requires the efforts of all of us,” she said.
Mbayo also stated that the recent Uganda stigma Index Study showed that stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV has reduced especially the external stigma (others thinking negatively about a person living with HIV), but internal stigma (oneself thinking negatively on how they are perceived by others because of their HIV status) remains present.
She added that as a result, many people with HIV delay to be tested, treated, fail to adhere to their medication and therefore cannot achieve viral suppression.
Mbayo gave credit to the people who have fronted the fight against stigma and discrimination, commending the late Philly Bongore Lutaaya, a Ugandan musician who came out to declare his HIV status and went ahead to preach ending stigma using his huge platform as an artist.
“He indeed pioneered the fight against stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDs. Today, his song, ‘Alone and Frightened’ remains Uganda’s anthem for HIV/AIDS,” she said.
What the experts say;
Dr. Nelson Musooba, the Director General of Uganda AIDS Commission disclosed that men are more affected than women as regards dealing with stigma due to one’s HIV/AIDS status.
He noted that even before, stigma was more in men than women, and that women were more likely to share their HIV status than men.
“Men are the most affected because of the structure of society which makes them feel way superior to line up for HIV services,” Dr. Musooba said.
Dr Steven Watiti, an HIV activist, said that knowledge and correct information should be given out to persons with HIV as they realise that like any other disease, it can be managed and there shouldn’t be a reason to feel less of what a person is.
“Many people are depressed because they lack knowledge on HIV. People should disclose their HIV status so that they get help,” he added.
The chairman of the Uganda AIDS Commission, Dr Eddie Mukooya said, “Currently, the focus of Uganda Aids Commission and its stake holders is to ensure behavioural change, which has prevention as part of it.