By Juliet Waiswa & John Agaba
At least 666 out of every 1110 people living with HIV are discriminated against, a new HIV stigma index report reveals.
The People Living with HIV (PLHIV) Stigma Index research was conducted from December 2012 and January 2013 in 18 districts in Uganda by the NAFOPHANU, the national forum of PLHIV networks in Uganda. It was support by the UN Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Uganda AIDS Commission.
The report, released in Kampala indicates that 244 of the respondents reported losing jobs mainly because of their HIV status.
About 8% reported that they had been refused work on the basis of their status.
In addition, over 377 respondents reported exclusion from social gatherings. 222 reported exclusion from religious activities. And 455 experienced exclusion from family activities.
The report also indicates that internal stigma was high. More than half of the respondents had low self-esteem and blamed themselves for being infected and affected by HIV. It was among sex workers, truck drives, persons with disabilities, religious leaders, armed forces, the civil society and the youth from age group 18 to 50 years and above.
According to the study, the commonest form of stigma is gossip where respondents cited they heard relatives, friends or workmates or community members discussing their HIV status.
Others said they just had a feeling that someone or a group of people was actually discussing their HIV status when they caught them talking.
It says that in the last 12 months 588 women and 488 men who were positive did not see a reason to have children.
“Some would say I am already HIV positive what the hell do I have to do with children?” said Stella Kentusi, the executive director NAFPPHANU, while reading the report.
It indicates that about 666 people earn less than 250, 000 a month. And irrespective of their income levels, the group has high incidences of poverty.
“This is mainly because of expenses such as transportation to health facilities for drug refills, purchase of recommended medicines that may not be readily available in health facilities, food requirements and other social needs,” explains the report.
It says that 8% don’t earn at all. And that 41% don’t have sufficient food.
However, the report also indicates that 977 of the respondents were on ART.
About 899 had disclosed their HIV status to a health worker, 854 to PLHIV colleagues, 799 to a social worker and 677 to their partners. 44 had their HIV status disclosed to their wife or husband by someone else without their consent.
Launching the report, the AIDS Control Program manager in the ministry of health, Dr. Joshua Musinguzi, said that stigma and discrimination was still real in the fight against the disease because it “affects the lives of the people and keeps them away from accessing care.”
He said that with a prevalence of 7.3%, meaning that about 2.4m of the country’s 34m people have HIV, the disease burden on the country’s economy continued to be enormous.
“Last year we had a substantial number of people enrolled on treatment. For the first time we had the number of people on treatment 193,000 surpassing the number of new infections 140. 000,” said Musinguzi.
“But we need a combination of HIV interventions. Both behavioral and biomedical interventions must be implemented in such a sufficient scale that they must have impact.”
He reiterated the need to meet the UNAIDS vision of reaching zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2015.