Approximately 1.5m Ugandans are positive circa 7.7% of the adult population, around 1 million people know their status and circa 500,000 do not know their status (UNAIDS data http://www.unaids.org/en/regionscountries/countries/uganda).
Many do not know their status due to stigma. In Uganda data privacy is a myth because most of the data is in paper format. Our researchers were able to walk into a hospital and obtain records of HIV positive patients rather easily. 26.2% of adults in Uganda would not buy from someone HIV positive. This prevents people from knowing their status.
Uganda is committed to Zero new HIV infections and zero HIV related deaths- according to the government. However, the struggle against HIV/AIDS will never succeed without addressing stigma. Stigma can be more lethal than the virus. Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action, the main reason why too many people are afraid to see a doctor to determine whether they have the disease, or to seek treatment.
HIV-related stigma and discrimination as a ‘process of devaluation’ of people either living with HIV and AIDS –Discrimination follows stigma and is the unfair and unjust treatment of an individual based on his or her real or perceived HIV status.
Stigma is fuelled by the lack of understanding of the disease, myths about how HIV is transmitted, prejudice, lack of treatment, irresponsible media reporting and insensitive utterances.
The first ever stigma index survey conducted in 2014 by NAFOPHANU reveals that 75% of People living with HIV and AIDS experience stigma at family level and 60% are aware of being gossiped about, a fact that greatly affects their self-esteem and general wellbeing.
The survey further reveals that 36% of People living with HIV and AIDS are verbally insulted, harassed, or threatened. One in five of People living with HIV and AIDS are subjected to psychological pressure or manipulation by their spouses, 21% experience sexual rejection by their spouses, 23% lost jobs because of their HIV status and 15% of People living with HIV and AIDS are assaulted based on their HIV status. Furthermore 3 out of 4 HIV positive persons whose rights were violated did not take up legal action for fear of stigma and of those who reported only 40% received legal redress.
HIV has left Uganda with circa 1 million orphans, with stigma going on unbated and with an annual infection rate of 52000 patients this will leave many children orphaned.