Experts suggest need for Zanzibar to address stigma discrimination

19Feb 2019
Correpondent
ZANZIBAR
The Guardian
Experts suggest need for Zanzibar to address stigma discrimination

EXPERTS have suggested the need for Zanzibar to address pervasive stigma and discrimination, if it  is to achieve the 90–90–90 target—an ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic.

Salum Abdallah, Bridge Initiative Organization (BIO), executive director made the suggestion over the weekend when opening the two-day training for Zanzibar journalists.

The training focused on right to health as a human right issue and aimed at equipping journalists with knowledge and skills needed to report health issues from a human rights and public health perspectives.

The 90-90-90 ambitions treatment target by United Nations (UN), obligates countries that by 2020, 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status. By 2020, 90 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy. By 2020, 90 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

“The ultimate goal of Zanzibar government is to have zero new HIV infections, zero HIV/AIDS related deaths and zero stigma and discrimination,” Salum told The Guardian adding that, but to realise the first two zeros Zanzibar will need to succeed on the last zero.

“We need the media to engage and report responsibly so as to contribute to realisation of the three 90s,” Salum challenged journalists. Calling for solidarity, evidence-based reporting and multi-sectoral collaboration.

According to Salum, the media needs a comprehensive contextual understanding of the HIV epidemic in Zanzibar so as to effectively contribute to Zanzibar HIV interventions.

Salum lamented that, the media in Zanzibar has been reporting in a way that further perpetuated stigma and discrimination to those who need HIV and AIDS services most, something which was not healthy for Zanzibaris, as that kind of reporting further pushed those who need service most under the carpet and hence posing a threat to everyone.

“As a result of your reporting, we witness exclusion of groups who are at increased vulnerability to HIV, the acquisition of HIV and the impacts of HIV, or who are on the margins of society, hence undermining the ability of any response to be effective, while contravening human rights and public health principles of freedom from discrimination and access to health services.” Salum told journalists attending the training.

“The media is expected to play a crucial role in ensuring that evidence based interventions are implemented” said Sadat Iddi from Zanzibar AIDS Commission (ZAC). He hailed BIO for organizing the capacity building training to Zanzibar journalists, saying that the training will lead to responsive journalism when it comes to reporting HIV and AIDS in the Island.

 

References to the right to health are found in international and regional laws, treaties, United Nations declarations and national laws and constitution of Zanzibar.

“The right to health is defined in Article 25 of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, as the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. This includes the right of everyone, including Key Populations (KPs), to the prevention and treatment of ill health, to make decisions about one’s own health and to be treated with respect and dignity and without discrimination” Shaban Haji from Zanzibar Integrated HIV hepatitis, tuberculosis, and leprosy programme (ZIHHTLP).

The right to health is directly related to all other human rights, for without the right to health, the right to life is compromised. The right to health means that governments must implement policies and plans in order to provide accessible health care for all in the shortest possible time.

According to Mtumwa Said, one of the training beneficiaries, journalist being able to identify how often and how severely certain population groups suffer discrimination may reveal inequitable health care provision. Using data that and journalism skills will help to highlight disparities in access to health and will also help to highlight the cost of inequality and the benefit of universal access to health and hence provide a valuable tool to end HIV and AIDS in Zanzibar.

“HIV/AIDS is a national, as well as a global disaster that calls for concerted and unprecedented efforts to contain it. It is a serious threat to the survival and development of our nation. The impact of HIV/AIDS pandemic on our societies is catastrophic,” concluded Kasim Khamis a KP representative on Zanzibar Global Fund Country Coordination Mechanism (ZGFCCM).