HIV Report: Stigma Still Common

2330 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Gossip, verbal insults and threats have been identified as the commonest forms of stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda, according to a new report released this week.

Gossip, verbal insults and threats have been identified as the commonest forms of stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
 
In a report launched this week, out of the 1110 HIV positive people spoken to, 23 percent reported losing jobs and some were discriminated at work by their co-workers or employers in 2012.
 
Stella Kentusi, Executive Director of NAFOPHANU, an organization that coordinates all the networks and organisations of people living with HIV, notes that there is both internal and external stigma.
 
Internally, most HIV positive patients blame themselves, feeling suicidal, and the hopelessness that they cannot have children, while externally they face stigma at work, social exclusion at home and religious places.
 
Approximately 20 percent of people living with HIV revealed that they had been subjected to psychological pressure or manipulation by their husband, wife or partner taking advantage of their HIV status.
 
Kentusi says she thought people had overcome tendencies such as gossip but realized it had increased to a whopping 60 percent.
 
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The People Living with HIV Stigma Index research was conducted in 18 districts by the National Forum of People Living with HIV Networks in Uganda with support from UNAIDS and Uganda Aids Commission.
 
The report also shows low education levels among HIV positive people yet education majorly contributes to self-awareness and may influence life situations.
 
Joshua Musinguzi, the head of the Aids Control Programme at the Ministry of Health, is convinced ignorance is the reason stigma is still at its highest.
 
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At least 34.1 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS reported exclusion from social gathering, 20.2 percent reported exclusion from religious activities and 41 percent experienced exclusion from family activities.
 
The study states that income levels among people living with HIV are generally low with about 60percent of people earning less than 250,000 shillings every month. Irrespective of their income levels, the group has high incidences of poverty. This is due to the numerous expenses such as purchase of medication and transport to health facilities for drug refills among others.
 
The study also shows that most people only test for HIV after illness of a partner or family member thus the need to raise awareness of the importance of HIV before marriage or initiation of sexual intercourse.
 
UNAIDS country coordinator Musa Bugundu says people should not look to government for all the answers, but urges all those fired from their jobs simply because they are HIV positive to report to the nearest organization defending people living with HIV.
 
The study notes the need to address the income gap for sustained development considering 1.5 million Ugandans are currently living with HIV.