“When I found out at 14 that I was HIV-positive, I didn’t think I would live to see 18, I am turning 22 this year.” This tweet by Saidy Brown generated thousands of re-tweets. Many praised her courage for speaking publicly about her personal experience living with the virus.
There are 2.3 million adolescent girls and young women, living with HIV just like Saidy. They constitute 60% of all young people aged 15-24 infected with the virus.
Ever since the epidemic started, discrimination and stigma follow the people living with HIV. Prejudice has become one of the root causes to why we haven’t been able to eradicate HIV faster. It is the reason why millions of people, especially women and girls, feel judged by their communities if they test positive and seek treatment and support.
Loveness Puliwa, a young woman from YWCA Malawi, says “For a long time I didn’t know that HIV alone is not what’s killing us. It’s also the stigma and discrimination.”
Treatment and prevention have improved immensely. More people are surviving HIV and having a normal life, nevertheless, the stigma surrounding this illness hasn’t changed much. UNAIDS data from 50 countries shows that one out of eight people living with HIV is being denied health care, due to the lack of understanding of the virus and prejudices. The good news is that we and many other actors work to raise awareness and to put an end to discrimination for good.
On Zero Discrimination Day, we celebrate diversity and we remind ourselves that everyone deserves to live a life in dignity and respect. We call upon every sector of society to join this process and stand up for those who are being discriminated. Let us all commit to make Zero Discrimination a reality and ensure that we truly leave no one behind!