Human Right activist and Treatment Action Campaign’s Deputy General Secretary, Vuyokazi Gonyela, has called on government to address the stigma and discrimination perpetuated towards people living with HIV. Gonyela was speaking at the second day of the 9th SA AIDS Conference in Durban.

Gonyela says stigma makes it difficult for people to go to health facilities for their medication. She says those living with the virus are sometimes stigmatized even in health care facilities and their status is usually publicly disclosed without their consent.

“Stigma that comes from different angles; by that I mean from family members, community to health care workers. If you are stigmatized by health care workers, it becomes difficult for you to go back to take your medication. There is a tendency that health care workers sometimes do; if you are known to be HIV positive, they make remarks and call you by your illness, ‘those who are for ARVs queue this side and those who are here for their CD4 queue this side.’ It makes it difficult for other people to go to facilities because it discloses for you without you even saying.”

Gonyela also raised concerns about the increase of drug stock-outs in many health care facilities in the country. She says 6% of the population of people living with HIV are the one who affected the most.

“The country has over 9% of people living with HIV that are taking the first line regiment; which is the fixed dose tablets that taken once daily. But 6% of the population of people living either HIV positive are taking the second line, which is basically prone who have developed a resistance and whose system is not responding well. That 6% is greatly affected by stock out. We cannot afford to change people on another medication as a result of drug stock out. We cannot be a community that encourages people to test for HIV but also have a system that does not retain you in it.”