The World Health Organisation has called for global action against stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings.
The global health body noted that there should be no discrimination against men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who use drugs, people in prison and transgender people. Stopping discrimination against such people in healthcare settings, WHO said, is crucial to ending epidemics of HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections.
The WHO made the call in its message on Tuesday in commemoration of Zero Discrimination Day.
The day is celebrated on March 1 annually to promote equality before the law and in practice throughout all of the member countries of the United Nations.
According to the WHO, equitable, quality and person-centred health services require health care staff to be compassionate and non-judgemental.
WHO stressed that all persons have the right to live healthy, full and productive lives with dignity regardless of their HIV, viral hepatitis, or sexually transmitted infections status.
“Zero Discrimination Day started with a focus on HIV to highlight how people can become informed about and promote the rights of people living with and affected by HIV.
“In recent years it has expanded to focus on ending all forms of discrimination that impact on quality of life, health and well-being,” it said.
The global body added that the health sector has a critical role to play in generating data on how stigma and discrimination impacts populations most affected by HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections.
“Draft global health sector strategies on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections for the period 2022-2030 will be considered by the 75 World Health Assembly in May 2022,” WHO said, adding that the draft will highlight the need to address stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings.
“The draft strategies highlight how the large expansion in services required to achieve 2030 goals and targets will not be achieved unless accompanied by strengthened efforts to address stigma and discrimination.
“The health sector also plays an important convening role for multisectoral partnerships to address the broader determinants of health,” it noted.
On her part, the Director of WHO’s Global HIV, Hepatitis and STI Programmes, Dr. Meg Dohertyin the statement, said, “On this year’s Zero Discrimination, let us remember all people living with HIV and health care workers who are working under the most difficult circumstances to deliver the highest quality of care for all.”