March 2, 2016 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The First Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation yesterday reckoned that self-stigma, as a result of societal expectations, customs and values, has driven people underground and destroyed their self-esteem.
Foday Lahai Sawi was speaking at a presser in the ministry’s conference room to mark this year’s Zero Discrimination Day on the theme: “Stand out and encourage everyone to stand for fair and just societies”.
He noted that discrimination in healthcare settings and communities continues to be widely reported even though such places are considered as safe and caring environment.
“Any obstacles that inhibit access to healthcare facilities, including testing, treatment and care services, destroy self-esteem and must be removed. Access to health, respect for the other and the dignity of each and every person regardless of their biological, gender, ethnic, social and economic circumstances must be guaranteed by law and in practice,” he said.
He said diseases such as HIV/AIDS and the Ebola virus disease have marginalised people, thus leaving them more vulnerable within society, adding that societal values have condemned those living with HIV, Ebola survivors and the disabled.
According to him, discrimination remains widespread, while gender, nationality, age, ethnic origin, religion, HIV and Ebola can be the basis for some form of discrimination.
Mr. Sawi urged Sierra Leoneans to value and embrace diversity, while at the same time recognising the diverse set of talents and skills that each person brings irrespective of their challenges.
He disclosed that in June 2016 Sierra Leone will join the United Nations General Assembly in New York to sign the political declaration to end AIDS by 2030.
“Everyone has something to contribute to the development of Sierra Leone, especially as we invest in rebuilding our society and country towards recovery. We should not stand in the way of someone’s aspirations to make a difference to their world and for others,” Mr. Lahai added.
UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Michael Frank Gboun, stated that the responsibility to discourage the practice of discrimination rest on every Sierra Leone.
“Discrimination is de-humanizing. Everyone should be allowed to live full and productive life. Discrimination also refused people the opportunity to access services,” he said.