Addressing stigma and discrimination was underlined as critical to progress on HIV by UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Crown Princess Mette Marit, during a site visit to a shelter for children living with and affected by HIV in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Visiting the shelter was part of her program at the Women Deliver Congress (28-30 May 2013), where she spoke and participated in a number of key sessions and panels. The Crown Princess stressed that addressing HIV related stigma is crucial in ensuring key populations have access to essential HIV services as well as support from society.
“Whether in Norway or Africa, or Asia, there is still so much stigma around HIV. Combating stigma is one of the more important aspects to ensure people can protect themselves and get tested,” said the Crown Princess at the WAKE shelter.
The shelter is run by the Malaysian Women and Health Association (Perubuhan Wanita Dan Kesihatan) and was set up in 2001 to support children who have been abandoned due to their or their parents’ HIV status..
Arriving at the home, the Crown Princess was met by children, young people and women living with HIV staying in or involved with the shelter. Children shared their experiences with the Crown Princess, guiding her around the brightly colored shelter and pointing out artwork and decorations they had created as part of their daily activities.
Whether in Norway or Africa, or Asia, there is still so much stigma around HIV. Combating stigma is one of the more important aspects to ensure people can protect themselves and get tested.
During her three-day program in Kuala Lumpur, the Crown Princess met and discussed with a wide range of young people living with and affected by HIV and/or working on HIV and other health and development issues.
“I believe that if we are to turn the tide on the epidemic, we must focus our efforts and energies on young people,” said the Crown Princess. “Young people are often the most vulnerable to HIV, but they are also the best agents of change. They are not leaders of tomorrow—they are leaders of today,” she added.