The National AIDS Commission of Liberia, in collaboration with civil society and human rights organizations in the country, on March 1 joined the United Nations, partners and the world at large to commemorate “Zero Discrimination Day.”
“Discriminating against people on the basis of race, gender, among others, causes individuals to suffer and weakens social cohesion,” said Mitchel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “Discrimination limits girls’ and young women’s access to education, and not only harms individuals, but prevents societies from benefiting from a deeper pool of talent.”
According to him, discrimination is a violation of human rights and must not go unchallenged, noting that “Everyone has the right to live with respect and dignity.”
He maintains that everyone can take action to counter discrimination and encourage acceptance.
“Stand up and speak up when something is wrong or [when] someone is treated unfairly; raise awareness, support people who have been discriminated against and promote the benefits of diversity,” Sidibé added.
He further challenged the world to “make some noise” to challenge discrimination, wherever it happens on this year’s Zero Discrimination Day.
In Liberia, Dr. Ivan F. Camanor, Chairman of the National AIDS Commission of Liberia, pointed out that discrimination continues to affect the lives of millions of people around the world, and people living with HIV and AIDS are of no exception.
“HIV related stigma and discrimination is pervasive and exists in almost every part of the world including our Liberia,” Dr. Camanor told the Anti-AIDS Media Network of Liberia.
Stigma and or discrimination is an unfair way of treating someone or acting toward someone because one thinks he or she is different in some way.
“Myths and misconceptions; lack of adequate knowledge about HIV and AIDS; fear of transmission; fear of death and illnesses; fear of being stigmatized and or discriminated; moral judgments; and negative perceptions about people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV) are some of the many causes of stigma and discrimination,” Mr. Stephen McGill, Executive Director of Stop AIDS in Liberia (SAIL), told the Anti-AIDS Media Network in Monrovia.
Research has showed that HIV positive individuals, especially women and children, face many acute challenges including stigma and discrimination, violation of their human rights, distant and limited health services, food insecurity, lack of shelter, lack of vocational and agricultural skills, and migration or indebtedness occasioned by high medical expenses.
Mrs. Josephine Godoe, President of the Network of People Living with HIV, said that discrimination continues to undermine efforts to achieve a more just and equitable world and causes pain and suffering for many persons living with HIV worldwide and in Liberia.
She called on Liberians throughout the republic to focus more attention on stopping stigma and discrimination by standing up against them.
Zero Discrimination Day is an opportunity to join together against discrimination and celebrate everyone’s right to live a full and productive life with dignity.
No one should be subjected to discrimination on the basis of their gender, gender identity, race, age, disability, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religion or language, health status or for any other reason.
For this year’s Zero Discrimination Day, UNAIDS, National AIDS Commission and civil society organizations, including the Liberia Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS, Stop AIDS in Liberia and others, will draw attention to the importance of eliminating discrimination in healthcare settings as a key step to ending AIDS by 2030.