Zero Discrimination Day 2017: Access To Treatment For ALL

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BY BARR DORCAS OSAS OGIAMIEN
Ada is HIV positive and she is dying. She needs her drugs and some medical attention. But the society she belongs stigmatize her. And even when she finally finds an health-care service, health-care officers discriminate against her. She doesn’t feel cared for. No one loves her. No one accepts her. And professional health-care officers who should know better do the same.
Ade is gay. He is sick—so sick he can’t help himself to the hospital. His neighbours know he his sick but they can’t stand gay people. The society’s discrimination against him denies him access to health. He eventually dies for lack of care. The society buries him and prays for his sinful soul.
Lydia is a sex worker—a prostitute. She was picked up a man for a night. The same night, she was abandoned by the street, after a gang rape. She was in pains—great pains. Her thighs dripped with blood. She was in tears and she was traumatized. As much as she could, Lara raised her hands for help. But people simply passed by. They knew what she does. Lydia’s society didn’t think she deserves health care. She must be damned.
Aisha is 14. She became an orphan after a bomb blast killed her parents in Bornu. Aisha was lucky to have survived the attack. But Aisha has not been able to survive on her own. She had lost a leg. The wound has started decaying right up to her knees. She drags herself on the ground, begging for alms. This Tuesday, she managed to drag her body to the bottom of the state hospital. Aisha needed treatment. She needed care. But all she got was discrimination. Discriminated against for the circumstances she was, she couldn’t have access to health care. Less than a week later, Aisha’s body was found by a refuse dump. She was dead.
From Ada to Ade; Lydia to Aisha, discrimination against people is dangerously denying many people around the world access to health care. Today, there are many Adas, Ades, Lydias, and Aishas out there who are dying daily as a result of discrimination against them. Society fails to realize that irrespective of the circumstances of one’s birth, ethnicity, health, race, sex, or status, access to health for all must not be denied. The society must ensure access to treatment for all. Without this, the right to life is worth very little.
This is why today March 1 the world has set aside this day as Zero Discrimination Day with the theme, Access to Treatment for ALL. This special day is marked globally to bring attention to those issues concerning discrimination in our society today.
Globally, people face barriers to accessing quality treatment and care. Some of these barriers include various forms of discrimination faced by people who are criminalized, marginalized, and stigmatized. The society maltreats these people because of their age, disability, ethnic group, gender, health status, nationality, language, religion, sexual orientation, and even socioeconomic status. We discriminate against prisoners, sex workers, and people who abuse drugs. This discrimination breeds distrust, stigma, hate, and consequently rejection.
Discrimination is everywhere, even in health-care settings. Discrimination in health-care settings takes many forms. Any barrier to accessing health and community services prevents the attainment of universal health coverage. it leads to poor health outcomes and hampers efforts to end the aids epidemic and achieve healthy lives for all.
Let’s take Ada’s HIV-positive status for example. According to a UNAIDS report, one in eight people living with HIV report having been denied health care. But the HIV-related stigma and discrimination Ada experiences daily is even beyond denial of care or poor health treatment. Research shows Ada might also be suffering from “forced sterilization, stigmatizing treatment, negative attitudes, and discriminatory behaviour from providers, lack of privacy and/or confidentiality and mandatory testing or treatment without informed consent.”
On this Zero Discrimination Day, a foundation known as FreshLife Care Foundation supports UNAIDS’ goal of achieving access to treatment for all by ensuring that discrimination-free health-care settings minimally:
1. provide timely and quality health care regardless of gender, nationality, age, disability, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religion, language, socioeconomic status, or HIV or other health status, or because of selling sex, using drugs and/or living in prison;
2. prohibit mandatory testing or treatment, or coercive practices;
3. respect patient privacy and confidentiality;
4. link marginalized and most affected populations to additional service providers, peer support networks, or community-based organizations, or legal services when necessary.
5. employ clinical providers who ask health questions or perform health intakes to actively inform people of their rights and provide quality non-judgmental care;
6. put in place grievance mechanisms and mechanisms of redress and accountability for discrimination and violation of the rights of clients.
7. ensure participation of affected communities in the development of policies and programmes promoting equality and non-discrimination in health care.
(Source: Agenda for Zero Discrimination in Health Care: I Stand for #ZERODISCRIMINATIONDAY)
Discrimination is dangerous. Wherever you are, stop discriminating against people.Discrimination kills. Kill discrimination today. To kill discrimination, support zero discrimination. Zero discrimination creates a happier and safer world for all.
#ZeroDiscriminationDay#Access to treatment for ALL
BARR OGIAMIEN is the Executive Director of an Abuja-based FreshLife Care Foundation.

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