Stigma jeopardises health rights – Kavetuna

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Loide Jason

Oshuukwa-Hundreds of residents of Okahao and surrounding villages in Omusati Region joined the global commemorations to mark World AIDS Day, at Oshuukwa Primary School in Okahao Constituency.

The day was marked with several educative dramas depicting various scenarios faced by society on all aspects of the disease as well creating awareness on the various preventative measures and promoting the use of anti-retroviral drugs.

In Omusati more than 35,000 people were tested for HIV between April 2016 and March 2017, of whom 5.3 percent tested positive.

Statistics show that over 90 percent of those who tested positive are on treatment, which the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Juliet Kavetuna, says is commendable.

She encouraged society not to stigmatise people living with the disease.
“No doubt, HIV/AIDS is not just a public health problem. The epidemic has far-reaching consequences for all social sectors and development itself. Therefore, the government and communities should take the necessary steps to end stigma and discrimination as a cornerstone for ensuring the right to health for everyone. These rights are jeopardised when people face stigma and discrimination,” she said. Kavetuna reiterated the government’s commitment to ensure that those infected are given life-saving treatment and the much-needed counselling to forge towards acceptance and live positive lives.

But she said that besides the excellent progress made, there are still people who don’t correctly exercise their right to health.

“As a result, some clients throw away expensive ARV and some don’t adhere to treatment instructions. Consequently, their viral load is still high, despite that they have collected ARVs on a regular basis.”
Julia Rudwig was diagnosed with the disease when she was first tested in March 2006.

Rudwig says she has survived the worst stigmatization in the past, but is thankful that society is slowly learning to accept those infected.

“When I was diagnosed, I had to move in with my relatives because I could not do anything for myself and I encountered the worst of treatments. Nowadays, it’s a bit easier for those living with the virus. I encourage those who are on treatment not to default because of the stigma they might endure.”

The commemoration was held under the theme ‘right to health’, which refers to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as made memorable in 1966 with the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights.

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