PSI and its affiliates in the health sector across the world joined in marking March 1, as global Zero Discrimination Day. The day has been set aside since 2014 to raise awareness on the need to roll back all forms of discrimination in access to health services, particularly for persons living with HIV.
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The theme for this year’s Zero Discrimination Day is “Make Some Noise” for safe, supportive HIV/AIDS care. There is the need to make a lot of noise for us to draw attention to discrimination and all structural and behavioural obstacles to achieving quality health for all.
Health is universally accepted as a fundamental human right, at least formally. Trade unions, civil society organisations and our communities must continually remind policy makers of this. Drawing attention to the need for this right to be respected and for discrimination in all forms to be combated requires that we act in any and every way we can.
PSI shares the view of Micahel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, that "From Bamako to Baltimore, the right to health belongs to all. On this #ZeroDiscrimination Day let us commit to ensuring everyone, everywhere can access health care safely and live life fully with dignity."
The PSI General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli said:
PSI fully subscribes to the agenda for zero discrimination. Stigma and discrimination are major obstacles to adequate prevention and management of HIV. Health sector unions have thus been at the fore of the crusade against discrimination in all forms within health settings.
The possible success of campaigns for zero discrimination is however curtailed by weak health systems, particularly in poorer countries where fragile health systems have been further weakened by neoliberal policies inspired by the international financial institutions.
A rights-based approach to the zero-discrimination campaign must thus stress the need for strengthening national health systems. This requires adequate funding, accountability and democratic governance which prioritises social dialogue in health settings.
A successful agenda for zero discrimination must involve patients, workers, management, community and the state. Draconian, unilateral action of the state such as the sack of Joseph Tamba and George Poe Williams of the National Health Workers’ Association of Liberia (NAHWAL) for leading a struggle for personal protective equipment (PPEs) to be made available for health workers fighting the Ebola outbreak, is a sordid example of how to sow seeds of discrimination in the treatment of infectious diseases.
At the heart of zero discrimination is mutual respect. PSI is unequivocal in its commitment to the defence of the dignity of all women and men, irrespective of race, nationality, ethnicity, faith, or sexual orientation. The fight for zero discrimination should include our acting against all forms of homophobia, and rising as one to defend LGBTI rights.
PSI and its affiliates will continue to stand up for zero discrimination in health settings and the society. Our commitment to the right to health for all without discrimination is being pursued with our campaign for A Better Future with Public Health for All. And this encompasses acting to address the social and economic determinants of health such as food and housing, which could entrench structural discrimination, on the pivot of class divide.