Stigma and Discrimination
Overview of stigma and discrimination activities in Zanzibar:
Generally speaking, currently many Zanzibaris are more aware of HIV&AIDS and know how to protect themselves from HIV. However, due to stigma, more people are not coming forward to benefit from VCT, HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services, which they might deserve.
Evidence shows that Zanzibar has higher level of stigma and discrimination, the impact of which to the national response is that it undermines community health by reducing uptake of HIV services to HIV prevention, VCT, treatment support and welfare benefits for those who are HIV positive.
Moreover, attitudes of many health workers have remained a barrier to health care among PHLIVs and key populations at large.
This sigma and discrimination against PHLIV and key populations, for many years has resulted into increased new HIV infections and non respect of human rights of PHLIVs and the affected people, within the islands..
Stigma and discrimination of PLWHA exists in Zanzibar and it is being experienced from many sources. From the community including the family, this includes being gossiped (58.1%), being verbally insulted (30.3%) and being excluded from social (29.8%) and religious gathering. Other PLWHA also stigmatise and discriminate their colleagues as reported by (5.3%) of the respondents. In addition to that fact, there were also cases of sexual assault which was common among people known to the individual. Spousal assault was reported by (37.1%). Spouses and partners also subject PLWHA to psychological pressure, sexual rejection also takes place. (source: stigma index report- 2010).
The results of the assessment would inform and guide advocacy work on stigma and discrimination in the country.
Based on stigma index report findings, Zanzibar through ZAC, launched a major campaign on stigma reduction in Pemba and Unguja in 2010. The campaign dealt with stigma in the families and communities as well as self stigma which cause PLHIV to shy off from receiving HIV services like PMTCT and home outreach support.
Under the leadership of ZAC various stakeholders have continued to invest the much needed support to address stigma and discrimination related to HIV in Zanzibar.
HIV&AIDS projects in communities have contributed to the reduction of stigma of PLHIV and their families.
The involvement of Faith Based leaders within the community has boosted the morale of PLHIV and encouraged communities to provide moral and material support for PLHIV.
Faith Based leaders work in the HIV&AIDS education and communication projects in community have contributed to the reduction of stigma of PLHIV and their families. Local authorities in communities as well as the Technical Aids Committees at ministerial levels also involved PLHIV in the implementation of Shehia sub projects, for instance through community sensitization and providing testimony.
Quite a good number of CSOs have also worked hard to sensitize communities in ensuring that the attitudes of the community members is changed on stigma issues and should not result into a range of excluding behaviours towards people thought to be HIV positive.
Furthermore, PHLIV peer educators were also trained to understand the effects of stigmatization and actions to be taken to stop stigma at all levels within the communities.
Media practitioners were not left behind as such were involved through participating in several trainings to take and play a leading role on anti-stigma campaign so as to become champions on the subject matter.
Technical AIDS Committees at all ministerial development agencies were also involved in the trainings whereby a powerful anti-stigma tool was used to give them insights on how to address stigma issues at working places.
Among the results which ZAC is proud of is that more people are currently coming forward to publicly declare their HIV status. Moreover, there is a substantial increase in the number of key populations reached with HIV programmes as compared to the previous years.
Tackling HIV and AIDs stigma and discrimination is everyone’s responsibility and concerted efforts from all role players and stakeholders in communities at all levels are essential.