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Reducing Stigma and Discrimination

Stigma and discrimination are among the primary barriers to achieving universal access to HIV treatment, care, and prevention. People living with HIV often face discrimination from health providers, employers, family members, or friends. Fear of the consequences of revealing their HIV status (including being denied care, jobs, or schooling), hinders individuals from getting tested for HIV, disclosing a positive status to their partners, or accessing HIV treatment and support services. Women and girls are particularly susceptible.

In health care settings, people living with HIV report that doctors and nurses often refuse to see or treat them. This kind of discrimination results in minimal or poor quality of care, frightens away potential clients in need of care, and undermines effective HIV prevention efforts. As HIV treatment programs become increasingly available in resource-poor countries, access to and use of these lifesaving services will depend on the degree to which health facilities welcome and respect the rights of people living with HIV.

To reduce stigma and discrimination in health care settings, EngenderHealth has developed a participatory curriculum for health workers, which raises awareness among health workers about stigma and their own attitudes and behaviors and clarifies the modes of HIV transmission to alleviate fears about HIV infection. The curriculum has been used to train health workers in eight countries and is currently being used to improve health care in GhanaIndia, and Tanzania.

EngenderHealth also leads the Most At Risk Populations (MARPS) project in Ethiopia, one of few comprehensive HIV prevention initiatives focused on reaching groups that are most vulnerable to HIV, including individuals engaged in transactional sex. MARPS engages these groups by increasing their access to information about HIV and providing mobile testing, condoms, counseling, peer education, and care, among many other services.

To combat stigma and maximize the global response to AIDS EngenderHealth also helped launch the Stigma Action Network (SAN) on May 11, 2011. This coordinated global network will enable people involved in programs, research, and advocacy to act and forge new commitments locally, regionally, and globally to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

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