Manerela calls for action against abusing people living with HIV

Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living or Personally Affected by HIV and Aids (Manerela+) has called upon the law enforcers to take action against people who abuse people who are living positively.

MANERELA+ Programs Officer Harold Kachepatsonga

This comes amid increased cases of stigma and discrimination against HIV infected persons especially those that are members of the Key Population [Commercial Sex Workers and LGBTI].

The call was made this week in of Blantyre where Manerela+ hosted an orientation meeting with opinion leaders including Police, Traditional Leaders and Faith Leaders.

The meeting was aimed at drilling the leaders in understanding issues to do with sexual orientation and gender identity.

During the meeting, it was revealed that People living with HIV and key populations face many forms of stigma and discrimination.

They are several challenges that these people face and some of them include being blamed and shamed at their respective homes and in some cases forced to leave home, isolated and made fun of by their peers at school or work places, subjected to verbal and physical abuse and social isolation in the community” said Harold Kachepeatsonga who is Manerela+ Project Officer.

“The most unfortunate part is that they are given poor treatment by health workers at our hospitals hence finding it difficult to access health services in the process escalating the spread of HIV” added Kachepatsonga.

He therefore urged doctors to respect the oath they took while completing their studies.

“We are reminding doctors of the oath they took to respect patients’ privacy, autonomy and consent. This is one of the oldest traditions of medical responsibility, as well as an obligation under human rights law,” he said.

He further noted that as it is at the moment, Malawi’s response to her HIV epidemic does not adequately address the rights and needs of key populations despite having all these outlined in National HIV Policy.

“The impact of rights-restricting codes on the nation’s HIV epidemic is real: criminalization impedes key populations’ access to HIV prevention and treatment services” Kachepatsonga said.

Manerela+  has since launched a new project called ‘Intergrated Faith Based Response in Tackling Challenges faced by Queer Community in Malawi’.

They will work hand in hand with police, traditional and faith leaders including people in surrounding communities of Blantyre City and Urban.

“This is just a Pilot phase that will run for two years and is being carried out in some parts of Blantyre City and urban with funding from Bread for the World.”

In reacting to the sentiments, law enforcers who attended the meeting including those from Chileka and Chilomoni Police Stations promised to ensure that rights of every individual is respected in the country regardless or religion, political party, sexual orientation among others.

“We will ensure that we arrest and formerly charge those abusing others especially those who discriminate and stigmatize HIV infected persons” said one of the officers who did not want his identity to be disclosed.

Malawi committed itself to end violence against LGBTI and HIV/Aids infected people in general at a United Nations Meeting in 2015.

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