By Assan Bah
The UNAIDS has reported an estimate of nearly twenty-six thousand (26,000) of HIV patients, out of which only 14,000 people living with HIV know their status.
This was revealed in the 2022 state of human rights of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
It also reported that out of the estimated number of patients, fifteen (15,000) are women.
The Commission said while the Government has taken laudable steps to address cases of COVID-19 in the country, it (pandemic) has disrupted the country’s healthcare system over the past 2 years and said it has as well diverted or reduced the attention and resources in the fight against other diseases such as HIV & AIDS.
The Commission further reports that Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) are still faced with stigma and discrimination.
“Despite progress made in addressing stigma and discrimination, PLHIV in The Gambia continue to face stigma and discrimination due to their status. One such challenge is the right to access health care services despite the existence of the HIV and Aids Prevention and Control Act 2015,” it underscored.
The Commission said discriminatory practices can disproportionately affect the vulnerable as it might give them challenges in accessing health care, which it said can propagate the virus.
“In the 2019 – 2020 DHS, questions posed to both men and women to assess discriminatory attitudes towards PLHIV revealed that 70.8 % answered they would not buy fresh vegetables from a vendor known to be HIV-positive while 55.2 % stated that children living with HIV should not attend school. Such discriminatory practices which disproportionately affect vulnerable groups may lead to avoidance of healthcare or challenges in accessing health care thereby contributing to the perpetuation of the virus,” it added.
The Commission therefore implores government to train healthcare workers on the human rights of KPs, create awareness on the impact of stigma and discrimination directed at KPs in schools, and intensify awareness raising programmes on the prevalence of HIV and AIDS and its preventative measures and management. It further recommended the Ministry of Justice to ratify and domesticate the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and submit the State’s ‘long overdue’ periodic report on ICESCR.