Today is Zero Discrimination Day. The Zero Discrimination Day which is observed annually on 1st March was instituted by UNAIDS in 2014 to promote equality and fairness before the law. The day is celebrated to create awareness and fight the systemic and cultural discrimination against people living with HIV.
We are gathered this morning in solidarity with persons infected and affected by HIV to make Ghanaians understand that ZERO DISCRIMINATION is about the fact that HIV infection does not make a person less of a human being. HIV stigma and discrimination is unimaginably pervasive in the country. According to the Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service in 2014, 92% of women and 85% of men expressed unacceptable attitudes towards persons living with HIV. Results of this survey clearly demonstrate that ignorance and misconceptions about HIV drive such unacceptable levels of stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV. Several studies conducted in Ghana on HIV-related stigma and discrimination show that the experience of stigma and discrimination is a daily occurrence in homes, schools, churches, workplaces and communities. These findings have been confirmed by data from the discrimination reporting system of the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) which show that persons infected, affected and at higher-risk of HIV continue to suffer various forms of discrimination such as:
Eviction from rented or family houses
• Denial of employment
• Denial of share of property
• Denial of maintenance of children
• Denial of education
• Denial of police assistance
• Denial of health service
• Disclosure of HIV sero-positive status to a third party
• Non-payment of wages
• Violence/physical abuse
• Sexual harassment/assault
Ghana AIDS Commission frequently receives similar reports/complaints from persons infected or affected by HIV. Sometimes PLHIV are disallowed to use the same toilet, bathroom or kitchen used by landlord or co-tenants. We are using this event to tell Ghanaians that these practices are in complete violation of people who are made to unjustifiably suffer these atrocities.
Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen
The theme for this year’s Zero Discrimination Day is: “Remove laws that harm, create laws that empower”. In line with this theme, we want to use this occasion to enlighten PLHIV and the general public about the Ghana AIDS Commission Act, Act 938. This Act applies the human rights provisions in the constitution to HIV for easy interpretation and delivery of justice. Thus the Act 938 empowers persons infected, affected and at higher risk of HIV to assert their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Under the non-discrimination provisions of Act 938,
a person infected or affected or at higher risk of HIV shall enjoy the fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution. This means:
a person must not be discriminated against because of his/her HIV sero-positive status
A person who suffers discrimination of any form because of his or sero-positive status can assert his/her rights through legal proceedings
• a person infected or affected or at higher risk of HIV shall enjoy the right to health
• a person infected or affected or at higher risk of HIV shall enjoy the right to privacy and confidentiality
• a person infected or affected or at higher risk of HIV shall enjoy the right to insurance of any kind
• a person infected or affected or at higher risk of HIV shall enjoy the right to work
• a person infected or affected or at higher risk of HIV shall enjoy the right to education
• a person infected or affected or at higher risk of HIV shall enjoy political rights
• a person infected or affected or at higher risk of HIV shall enjoy freedom of movement
• a person infected or affected or at higher risk of HIV shall enjoy the sexual and reproductive health rights
• a person infected or affected or at higher risk of HIV shall enjoy the
Any person who stigmatizes or discriminates against PLHIV or affected persons causes an offense punishable by law. We wish to encourage PLHIV and people affected by HIV in any way to recognize that these rights are guaranteed by law and must therefore object to any form of stigma and discrimination. They should report any such cases to the policy, CHRAJ, or go to court for legal redress.
Stigma and discrimination significantly undermine the life-saving treatment services made available in health facilities throughout the country. Stigma drives PLHIV underground and prevent them from accessing services. PLHIV tell me that it is stigma that kills them and not AIDS. We know from scientific literature and lived experiences of PLHIV that it is 100% true that it is stigma that kills and not the disease itself.
We all have to work together to eliminate stigma and discrimination. It is a shared responsibility to achieve zero discrimination and we call on the media, the religious bodies, traditional leaders, politicians, school authorities, employers and every well-meaning Ghanaian to help eliminate discrimination in all its forms.
The Ghana AIDS Commission is a supra-ministerial and multi-sectoral body established under the Chairmanship of H. E. the President of the Republic of Ghana by Act 2016, Act 938 of Parliament. The objective of the Commission is to formulate policy on the HIV and AIDS epidemic and...find out more