Today, on Zero Discrimination Day, I am highlighting the need to ensure every human has the right to live a full and productive life, based in dignity, inclusion, compassion, and peace.
Together with Africa REACH Leadership Council Members, as we took the bold step of launching our initiative to increase access to life-saving medication at the 36th AU Summit African Union in the margins of the 27th Ordinary General Assembly of the Organization of African First Ladies for Development, I conversed with UNAIDS Global Chief Winnie Byanyima, commending the focus of this year’s theme, Save lives: Decriminalise – emphasising the decriminalisation of key populations and people living with HIV, to save lives and help advance the end of the AIDS pandemic.
As an Inaugural Africa REACH Board Member, and long-time advocate for the health and wellbeing of those living with HIV through The Wellbeing Foundation Africa Positive Lifeline and PMTCT programming, I continue to discourage criminal laws targeting those living with HIV as a violation of human rights, as it exacerbates the stigma and creates barriers in accessing the the support and services people need to protect their health.
In 2021, United Nations member states including Nigeria made a commitment that by 2025 less than 10% of countries would have punitive legal and policy environments that affect the HIV response. Unfortunately, today, 134 countries still explicitly criminalise or prosecute HIV exposure, non-disclosure or transmission, furthering us from achieving this target and our Sustainable Development Goals.
Unfairly, criminalisation of PLWHA increases vulnerability, driving discrimination and structural inequalities. Together, we must create a global movement of solidarity to end all forms of discrimination, and allow people the prospect of healthy and fulfilling lives, while working towards ending AIDS.