Agenda Item 7 – Update on Actions to Reduce Stigma and Discrimination in All its Forms
Delivered by Ainsley K. Reid, Latin America and the Caribbean NGO Delegate
I am from the Latin and Caribbean region where stigma and discrimination is affecting the lives of people for many reasons.
The experiences of this Delegation underscore that the rates of stigma, discrimination and criminalization of the key populations directly affected by HIV and AIDS remain very high due to unresolved structural, social and political barriers, which limit their access to adequate health services. By ‘key populations’ we include people living with HIV, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who inject drugs, and young people as well as other vulnerable populations – women and girls, other LGBTI populations, incarcerated people, indigenous peoples, racial and ethnic minorities, and migrants and refugees. After three decades of community response to HIV/AIDS, we know what to do and how to do it.
We have documented best practices, including the research, community empowerment and action against stigma that results from the People Living with HIV Stigma Index. However, we regret that there is still insufficient political will in many countries to incorporate lessons learnt into government strategies and mechanisms.
My country, Jamaica, has been labelled by some the most homophobic country in the world. Yes, I accept that there is strong stigma and discrimination against PLWHIV and LGBT populations. I live them. But, there is also change. And, we need to acknowledge this. With UNAIDS support, Jamaica is joining a Caribbean-wide initiative to measure levels of stigma so that we can evaluate progress. Across the Caribbean we now have data that are showing that there is more popular support for anti-discrimination legislation than our leaders believe. There is growing acceptance of persons living with HIV and of differing sexualities. This is providing the evidence-base for our advocacy. In Jamaica, I am witnessing an unprecedented parliamentary debate on the Sexual Offenses Act that seeks to provide new protections to women, men and adolescents. I am living because of the work of those of you around this table.
And, I note that although there is still much work to be done, I am seeing change in the Caribbean because of the work of and support from UNAIDS (also co sponsors) and many partners.