Liberia Concludes Conference On Stigma, Discrimination; As Delegates Present Resolution To End HIV-related Stigma and Discrimination

Monrovia, Liberia-September 1, 2023: The National AIDS Commission of Liberia in collaboration with various civil society organizations with support from USAID Interagency has concluded a two day Stigma, Discrimination and Advocacy conference in Monrovia.
The conference was aimed at bringing together key sector players and partners to brainstorm workable strategies on how to tackle societal stigma and discrimination that have undermined the National HIV Response over the years.
Speaking at the start of the two days conference, the Chairperson of the AIDS Commission, Theodosia Kolee said there is no better time for the conference than now where the world is preparing to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Madam Kolee said ending AIDS is dependent on how prepared and focused we are as a country in addressing stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV, key and vulnerable groups.
She said stigma and discrimination remain stumbling blocks in achieving different thematic areas in the country’s HIV strategic Plan II and other policy documents to fast track interventions to end AIDS by 2030.
The conference was aligned with Goal-2 of the HIV National Strategic Plan II developed by the AIDS Commission and partners, which directly speaks to reducing stigma and discrimination for persons living with HIV (PLHIV) and other vulnerable populations.
Goal-2 of the NSP II obligates the country to ensure that no new HIV related discriminatory laws, regulations and policies exist, 90% of Persons living with HIV have access to justice and can challenge rights violations, zero denial of health services based on perceived or real positive HIV status and incidences of sexual and gender based violence are reduced.
At the same time, Madam Kolee disclosed that HIV cannot be eradicated in the presence of stigma and discrimination. She wants participant to return to the communities and educate people not to stigmatize and discriminate against people living with HIV and other key populations groups.
The AIDS Commission Chairperson maintained that when people are stigmatized, they will shy away from speaking out seeking treatment, which may lead the country not to achieve its goal of ending AIDS.
Also speaking, the President of the Network of People living with HIV (LibNeP+), Wokie Cole said people living with HIV, Key and vulnerable populations are still being denied access to opportunities and services because of their status and identities which she said remains a major issue to ending AIDS.
Madam Cole emphasized that the conference was not only about networking, but to passionately engage these issues and reflect on key priorities that will enable PLHIV and populations to be more inclusive.
Also speaking, Swedish Ambassador to Liberia Urban Sjorstrom said Sweden remains a champion and supporter of HIV prevention and response globally, and was pleased to see the gathering of people from diverse backgrounds to reflect on the global target to end AIDS by 2030.
The conference was climaxed with a resolution from the delegates, urging the Liberian government and partners to take a robust approach if the country must meet the global target of ending AIDS by 2030.
The resolution among other things called on government to review and repeal all existing discriminatory laws, policies and regulations that fuel stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and key populations.
The ten counts resolution quotes the delegates as calling on religious and traditional leaders to lead a compassionate campaign against all HIV-related stigma and discrimination as well as the Independent National Commission on Human Rights Commission to strengthen its complaint desk to address HIV-related human rights violations.
The delegates also urged the media as a critical partner to refrain from promoting insightful and discriminatory messages that stimulate stigma and discrimination and encouraged them to build a healthy partnership with the communities in response to stigma and discrimination.
Evan Adofu who read the resolution on behalf of the delegates also called on government to ensure that HIV services are provided in an environment free of stereotyped stigma and discrimination at all levels.
The delegates further urged government to demonstrate leadership and commitment and take ownership toward achieving and control the HIV and AIDS epidemic as public health threat in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 3.3.

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