Օn December 15 Eurasia Partnership Foundation with the support of the French Embassy in Yerevan and the Council of Europe organized a debate “Equal Rights for each opportunity. Fight against Discrimination”. The opening of the event are announced by:
Jean-Francois Charpentier, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Armenia
Natalia Vutova, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Yerevan,
Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan, Eurasia Partnership Foundation,
Hrach Palian, Deputy Ombudsman.
During the event “New Generation” Humanitarian NGO Office Director Arman Sahakyan also had a speech referring to the discriminatory attitude towards people living with HIV positive status.
Below is the full speech of Arman Sahakyan.
Let me thank you for this invitation.
Representatives of different kind of organizations here, even that organizations which are not represented here have different kind goals, but one problem, which is the discrimination of special group of people from society. These organizations are united by one common goal: the elimination of discrimination in Armenia. A few years ago the elimination of discrimination was only just a vision for organizations. But it is time now to turn it into a strategic goal and work towards it.
I am Arman Sahakyan, I represent “New Generation” Humanitarian NGO. It was founded in 1998, a human rights organization that deals with the protection of human rights implementing HIV prevention programs among vulnerable groups in the society.
It is important that we raise the issues of human rights and try to look together for ways of combating discrimination.
A little bit of statistics on HIV and AIDS in Armenia:
According to National AIDS Prevention Centre, from 1988 up to 2016 November 30, in the Republic of Armenia registered 2482 cases of HIV infection among citizens. HIV majority are of male patients: 1714 people (69%), females recorded 768 cases (31%). 45 cases of HIV infection (1.8%) are children. 52% of people with HIV were 25-39 years old at the time of diagnosis. In Armenia the main channels of HIV transmission are through heterosexual sex (66%) and injecting drug use (25%). Besides, there are homosexual and mother-to-child HIV transmission through blood modes.
All HIV positive citizens has the same rights as other citizens, while the rights of persons with HIV positive status are violated in almost all areas.
Often the employer refuses to employ persons with HIV-positive status, or if knowing HIV positive status of employee, dismisses him/her.
Even medical Staff, knowing the person who has HIV positive status, refuse to help him.
Often people living with HIV positive status fear the prospect of being expelled from the community or from home, hiding their disease and do not apply to hospitals, which could improve their quality of life and prolong life expectancy.
I can tell 2 short examples of how discrimination was manifested against one woman and one child living with HIV positive status.
In one of the cities in Armenia, employer knowing about employees HIV-positive status, dismissed the person from workplace and informed about it to all people who knew her. That woman was forced to quit her job and after a while she left the country with his family.
In other case, all dentists refused to help child for toothache, because of which the child was suffering from tooth pain for about 5 days. Only after our intervention, the problem was solved.
What leads to stigma and discrimination fear?
The fear being subjected and discriminated doesn’t let them test HIV status. It leads to a number of negative consequences of not receiving timely treatment, AIDS prevention, etc. This problem concerns nor only to a man/woman living with HIV positive, but also his/her family.
All of this ultimately hinders their integration into society preventing their access to healthcare and treatment.
What are the reasons for imposing discrimination of people living with HIV positive status?
Mainly the lack of knowledge. When a person does not know, for example, the transmission ways, they can think that even transmission may from sitting near one table, using same silverware etc. Because pf it we see isolation of people living with HIV Positive status.
Lack of knowledge leads to the formation of stereotypes. For example, HIV is transmitted through everyday contact, insect bites, by kissing, air, etc.
Another stereotype is that HIV infection is a disease peculiar to only a specific group of people, homosexuals, drug users, prostitutes, etc. Also people believe that a person living with HIV positive status will look different from the others, but it is not true.
Segregated vulnerable groups in the Republic of Armenia’s national strategic plan for AIDS response are especially at risk for HIV, CSW-s, s MSM, IDU and young people.
These groups are vulnerable not only because of infection, but also because of existing stereotypes in the society.
Common misconceptions is that sexually infected men is considered normal, while women are very often being labeled, due to existing gender stereotypes in the society.
The HIV-positive person in society is associated with undesirable person. The most important step to eliminate the fear of the spread of HIV transmission and HIV-sided information.
For this process it is necessary to mobilize all segments of the society and provide the population with accurate information on HIV/AIDS.