Health Minister Mkhize launches SA Human Rights Plan before Aids conference

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize launched the South African Human Rights Plan before the official start of the country’s ninth Aids conference in Durban on Tuesday.

The plan is the response by government, the private sector and civil society to human rights and gender-related barriers to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and tuberculosis (TB) services.

It will focus on eliminating the stigma and discrimination associated with the diseases in accordance with goal five of the country’s National Strategic Plan (NSP) on HIV, TB and STIs.

Goal five seeks to ground the response to HIV, TB and STIs in human rights principles and approaches.

“Since the advent of these three infectious diseases, those infected and affected have suffered immeasurable stigma and discrimination, at home, in communities, at workplaces as well as when trying to access essential civic and health services,” said Mkhize.

He said that the findings of the 2014 Stigma Index Survey reflected a “dire picture” of the levels of stigma of those infected and affected by HIV and TB, which extended to other vulnerable populations such as sex workers and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, particularly transgender individuals.

The worst forms of stigma and discrimination came from family members, communities and civil servants, according to the index.

The ceremonial handover of the plan took place at Gugu Dlamini Park, named after the KwaMashu resident who was stoned to death in December 1998 after going public about living with AIDS.

“Gugu Dlamini’s untimely passing is indeed an example of the supreme price paid because we have not been able to fully address stigma and discrimination. Every one of us must redouble our efforts in ensuring that no one is discriminated against,” said Mkhize.

Mkhize was standing in for David Mabuza, who as deputy president is the custodian of the South African National Aids Council (SANAC).

Joining Mkhize at the event – which included a wreath-laying ceremony – was KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala, SANAC representatives as well as civil society leaders.

“Government, civil society, the private sector and development partners must work together to make sure that this Human Rights Plan is executed in all parts of our society – in homes, in communities, in schools and institutions of higher learning and workplaces,” said Mkhize.

The seven key programmes in the plan focus on:

* Reduction of stigma and discrimination;

* Sensitising and training health and community-based workers;

* Sensitising lawmakers and law enforcers;

* Campaigns focusing on legal literacy;

* Strengthening legal support services;

* Monitoring and reviewing laws and policies;

* Reducing gender inequality and gender-based violence.

African News Agency (ANA)

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