UN AIDS Day: Towards a Society that is Free of HIV/AIDS Stigma

Under the auspices of the Sudan AIDS Network and HIV/AIDS Regional Program in Arab States (HARPAS), UNDP and UNAIDS Sudan organized a two day workshop on leadership and advocacy for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS held on 13-15 December, 2011 to celebrate the lives of thousands of individuals who continue to fight HIV/AIDS each day.

Representatives from different countries: Yemen, Djibouti and Somalia participated in this workshop each bringing their respective experiences in dealing with People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in their communities.

The opening session of the workshop was attended by Khartoum state Minister of Higher Council for Youth and Sport, UN agencies and national organizations working in the field of HIV/AIDS in Sudan.

Speakers at the workshop emphasized the importance of granting full rights to PLHWA, and reiterated their commitment to the draft and issuance of laws and legislations that combat stigma and discrimination directed towards these individuals. Speakers further stressed the need for active engagement by PLWHA associations across the country to further mobilize the Sudanese community to provide support for individuals and families undergoing stigma.

UNDP Sudan has led a series of efforts to combat stigma against PLWHA through sensitizing different sectors of the society: religious leaders, policy makers and civil society organizations in response to the spread of stigma amongst community members. To that effect, UNDP in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor has recently organized a ‘Workplace policy sensitization’ training to help mobilize support for the fight against HIV/AIDS in Sudan through encouraging a more positive attitude toward HIV affected individuals to end stigma and discrimination directed against them in work places. Participants further encouraged the promotion of spiritual values of care and compassion toward people living with HIV/AIDS amongst work , and have agreed on the need for drafting and ratifying of laws that preserves the rights of PLWHA in workplaces.

The Sudan National AIDS Programme (SNAP) is spearheading the countrywide HIV/AIDS response with the assistance of national and international NGOs, UN agencies, and with the UNDP-managed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria providing financial support. UN agencies and non-governmental organizations provide a wide array of harmonized support to the national HIV/AIDS response such as awareness raising, care and treatment, and prevention of mother to child transmission.

Through its extensive network, UNDP supports the PLWHA associations in 15 northern states by providing diverse training to their Executive Committees to improve their capacity and increase their leadership role in the national response to combat HIV/AIDS. UNDP is also implementing a capacity development programme for 35 NGOs working in HIV/AIDS including four SLWHA associations.

According to the 2011 UNAIDS World AIDS Day report, people living with HIV are living longer and AIDS-related deaths are declining due to the lifesaving effects of antiretroviral therapy. Globally there were an estimated 34 million people living with HIV in 2010, and since 2005, AIDS-related deaths decreased from 2.2 million to 1.8 million in 2010. Around 2.5 million deaths are estimated to have been averted in low- and middle-income countries due to increased access to HIV treatment since 1995.

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