Take action to eradicate stigma against vulnerable Ghanaians — CHRAJ to government 

Social News Take action to eradicate stigma against vulnerable Ghanaians — CHRAJ to government
MAR 1, 2024 LISTEN

The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has called on the government and other relevant stakeholders to take action to eradicate stigma and discrimination in all forms against women and girls, and key populations.

The action should protect their human rights and improve access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care.

The call was part of efforts to stand in solidarity with all vulnerable people globally in commemorating this year's UN Zero Discrimination Day, a statement sent to GNA by CHRAJ, signed by its Commissioner, Mr Joseph Whittal said.

This year's theme, “To Protect Everyone's Health, Protect Everyone's Right', focuses on ensuring equality and fairness for everyone, especially women, girls, and key populations.

Discriminatory practices, policies and laws, according to the statement, contributed to inaccessibility of critical health and social services, resulting in poor public health outcomes, especially for those in vulnerable or underserved communities.

Current statistics of persons living with HIV/AIDS in Ghana stands at 354,927, with an estimated 16,574 new HIV infections in 2022.

Females accounted for two thirds (10,927) of the new HIV infections, and one-third (5,647) were males.

The Ghana AIDS Commission and the National AIDS Control Programme has put in place various initiatives targeted at preventing new infections, reducing viral loads of patients and improving access to antiretroviral therapy.

Despite those initiatives, it said Ghana fell short of achieving the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 treatment targets by the end of 2020, albeit, some significant advancement in HIV/AIDS management.

Even though there are laws and policies in Ghana that protected people against stigma and discrimination, the statement said issues of stigma and discrimination persisted, especially against women and girls and key populations curtailing their human rights and obstructing their access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care.

“For instance, the latest Ghana Statistical Service report revealed 78 per cent of women and 72 per cent of men were reported to have discriminatory attitudes towards people living with HIV.

“Besides, women alleged as witches and banished from their communities also suffer stigma and discrimination among other human rights violations which require government intervention,” it said.

The Commission's recent health screening exercise for women and children in four alleged “witch camps” revealed lack of medical check-ups to aid in early detection of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, typhoid fever, and HIV.

“These vulnerable women suffer multiple levels of stigma and discrimination based on their gender, sex, age and socioeconomic status,” it noted.

Access to healthcare facilities and testing centres, especially in rural and remote areas was another related challenge.

Moreover, issues of long distance to healthcare facilities and limited infrastructure contributed to barriers in accessing essential services by underserved populations.

The Commission, according to the statement, recognised Ghana's recent commitment to the Global Partnership for Action to eliminate all forms of stigma and discrimination through evidence-based interventions, especially in healthcare, education, and workplace settings.

“Yet, there are existing gaps that require urgent action,” it said.

The Commission called on government to protect women alleged as witches from stigma and discrimination through operationalising the 'Anti-Witchcraft' Bill passed by Parliament in July 2023 and awaiting President's assent.

It also urged all stakeholders to design and/or implement collaborative measures to combat stigma and discrimination through awareness campaigns and community sensitisation programmes.

“This is significant because efforts to combating stigma and discrimination are critical to improving Ghana's HIV service utilisation and outcomes, especially as Ghana seeks to achieve UNAIDS Project 95-95-95 with the ambitious goal of ending the epidemic by 2030,” it added.