PRESS STATEMENT DELIVERED BY HON. THEODOSIA S. KOLEE, CHAIRPERSON OF THE NATIONAL AIDS COMMISSION OF LIBERIA ON THE HOSTING OF STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION 2023 IN LIBERIA

August 15, 2023

Representative of PEPFAR Inter-Agency, the UN Team Group on HIV and AIDS

USAID, Our development partners Dr. Johnathan Flomo, Program Manager( NACP), The leadership and members of LibNeP+, The Board and members of LIPRIDE Coalition

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Members of the press

On behalf of National AIDS Commission and partners, it is my pleasure to welcome you to this media engagement leading to the national conference on Stigma, Discrimination and Advocacy.

Over the years, people living with HIV, key and vulnerable populations have suffered different forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination in the country. They have been denied access to healthcare services, job opportunities, education amongst others in society that belongs to everyone.

At some points, they have experienced verbal insults, harassments, and threatened. Some have suffered physical assaults and intimidation because of their HIV status, sexual orientation and gender identity.

HIV-related stigma and discrimination negatively affect the health, lives and well-being of its people who are at high risk, including the key population.

Distinguished members of the press, this is a nightmare that we must fight collectively in addressing the impacts of HIV on the country.

The time is now for all stakeholders to combine efforts to address violence, hate and inequalities as a result of Stigma and Discrimination against persons living with HIV, key populations and other vulnerable groups in the country.

As a signatory to the Global Partnership for the Elimination of HIV-related stigma and Discrimination, the National AIDS Commission of Liberia in collaboration with its partners has embarked this three-day National Conference to raise awareness on the negative effect of stigma and discrimination have on PLHIV, key populations and other vulnerable groups.

The conference is funded by US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID/Liberia and supported by PEPFAR/LIBERIA Interagency team (including department of Defense through and the Health resources and services administration.)

In Liberia, PEPFAR through USAID supports provision of quality HIV services in Montserrado, Margibi, Grand Bassa and Nimba counties. It compliments Government’s efforts to achieve HIV epidemic control by collaborating with other partners, including civil society, the NAC, ministry of Health, UNAIDS, and the global Fund.

This conference which runs from August 31- September 2, 2023, will be held under the Theme ‘‘End Stigma and Discrimination; Get Involve!’’ will strengthen coordination and collaboration to address societal stigma, discrimination and violence against key and vulnerable populations on HIV in a holistic manner.

Discussions at the three days conference will be directed at the following critical areas of concern;

ü Identify key priorities for a more effective response to stigma, discrimination and violence against key and vulnerable populations in Liberia.

ü Improve understanding of stigma, discrimination and violence, and the effect they have on persons living with HIV, key populations and other vulnerable groups

ü Share experiences and learn good practices in the country’s HIV response in addressing stigma, discrimination and violence against key populations, persons living with HIV and vulnerable groups.

ü Expression of commitment by state actors, policymakers and stakeholders in creating an enabling environment to allow key populations, persons living with HIV and other vulnerable groups to enjoy their universal health and human rights void of stigma, discrimination, violence and hate.

Distinguished members of the press, it is particularly important to know that stigma and discrimination have continued to undermine national efforts to address the impact of HIV-related rights and other public health issues.

The commission and its partners remain persistent and definite in taking concrete and committed actions to address stigma and discrimination to meet the global target of ending AIDS by 2030.

It is our hope that efforts to achieve the 2030 goal to end AIDS will be translated into measurable policy change and programmatic interventions to guarantee HIV-related rights for people who suffer stigma and discrimination.

We call on policymakers and state actors to take actions in tackling stigma and discrimination by ensuring that;

  • All existing HIV-related discriminatory laws, regulations and policies on our books are repealed

Persons living with HIV and members of the key populations have access to justice and can challenge rights violations.

  • That the legislature repeals laws that undermine public health interventions. The commission is ready to engage relevant people to ensure that this happens.
  • Homophobic behaviors and unequal treatment against key populations, persons living with HIV and vulnerable groups is not the best option to end AIDS. Leaving these people means our response or efforts to end AIDS are not good enough.
  • Allowing them to persistently live in a climate of fear because of discrimination and discrimination will do more harm than good to the National HIV response.

It is our hope that this conference will allow us to reflect on where we have done wrong and change our mindset to resist intolerance, stigma and discrimination.

The commission re-iterates that we are all at risk and exposed to dangers, once stigma and discrimination still exist, and no one is safe until we are all safe.

Finally, let’s combine efforts to defeat stigma and discrimination because we cannot afford to miss out on our fight to end AIDS by 2030. Stigma and discrimination are still standing our way.

Thank you.

 

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