Stigma and Discrimination continues to be a major obstacle in people accessing services for HIV related conditions in Dominica.
This was revealed at the start of a weeklong workshop on Stigma and Discrimination which got on the way at the Garraway Hotel in Roseau on Monday April16, 2012.
Coordinator of the National HIV/AIDS Response Programme Julie Frampton told the opening ceremony that being fearful of discrimination can have serious implications for people living with HIV and the society at large.
”Fear of discrimination prevents people from acknowledging that they are HIV positive, from seeking treatment upon diagnosis. Fear of disclosure or suspicion of HIV status stops people with the disease from using condoms or from adopting other preventive behaviors. It also prevents people from getting tested even if they suspect they might be HIV positive. It forces people to pretend that they are heterosexual; it prevents communities, families and partners from providing education care and support for people with HIV and AIDS and for people from other highly vulnerable populations. It negatively affects the quality of care provided to HIV positive patients. It prevents national authorities from getting a true picture of the burden of the epidemic”.
HIV has been an epidemic affecting Dominica for several years. Dominica reported 15 new HIV infections in 2011. A total of 376 cases have been recorded since the first case was reported in 1987. The National HIV/AIDS Response Programme coordinator says the country has to continue in its efforts at reducing the number of cases. She views the training program as making progress in this effort.
“HIV has been with us for the last thirty years and if we as country do not do something about it we will be in serious trouble. So as we continue to scale up and improve the services that we give, I am so pleased that we are here this morning to participate in this one week training”.
Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Helen Royer declared the workshop open saying “that much more needs to be done to challenge stigma and discrimination”.
The workshop is organized by the National HIV/AIDS program of the Ministry of Health and supported by the Health Policy Project which provides technical support to the stigma and discrimination program of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV & AIDS (PANCAP) and its implementing partners.
Ayana Hypolite is the Caribbean Region’s Program Manager for the Health Policy Project.
She said the workshop will also focus on “improving regional coordination and communication around stigma and discrimination”. “We have been working on these issues for years now. We have been doing a lot of work yet we have had some difficulties. Regional coordination and communication will continue to ensure that quality professional services are provided to all our clients. Also we are working on creating an enabling environment for preventive services.”
The April 16-20, 2012 workshop forms part of an anti-stigma package which is being used to support the work of The National HIV/AIDS Response Programme. That includes measuring levels of stigma, building local capacity and addressing stigma effectively.