Duty bearers ask communities to speak out against HIV stigma and discrimination
(Press release by TLF Share Collective for the CARE Program Launching, May 20, 2021)
Stigma and discrimination are common occurrences endured by people living with HIV (PLHIV), males who have sex with males, transgender women, and others affected by HIV. Often, communities suffer in silence – they fear other people’s condemnation, they worry that seeking redress for grievances could worsen their situation, and some have no information on or means to seek justice for the wrongs they endure.
TLF Share, a non-governmental organization and member of the Philippine National AIDS Council, launched its Community Access to Redress and Empowerment (CARE) Program. The program aims to help the communities who have experienced stigma and discrimination to find their voices again – it educates key populations on human rights, and it assists affected persons to access and navigate the various legal and mediation mechanisms available.
The CARE Program is just one solution to address stigma and discrimination. Communities affected by stigma and discrimination need to speak out. Undersecretary of health for public health services, Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire, encourages the communities to have the courage to seek help when they get stigmatized or discriminated: “The platform and the service are here for you. What is more crucial at this point is to put your trust on this platform and mechanism. In so doing, you are not just letting yourselves be helped. More importantly, you are also contributing towards effecting change and making things right.”
The Department of Health spokesperson’s call was echoed by assistant secretary of justice Margaret Castillo-Padilla, “If you share your stories, you take the first step in breaking the wall of silence and shame.”
Mr. JM Manlutac, focal person for the HIV program of DOH Center for Health Development in Central Luzon, enjoined his fellow duty bearers to protect and uphold the communities’ rights, “We create a culture that is accepting and intolerant of abuses. We are creating a conducive environment to fully realize our actions and services in HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.”