On 3rd August a peaceful march took place in Mozambique against the stigma regarding people suffering from HIV/AIDS.
Several associations of seropositive people, the Muslim Council and other members of civilian society took part in the march, which was organised by the Community of Sant’Egidio together with the Eu DREAM Association.
The idea of the march came as a result of the Mozambican Ministry of Health’s decision, a few months ago, to close the public health centres specialised in treating and assisting people with HIV/AIDS.
This decision has produced a dramatic situation for many sick people in the country and has created serious problems of access to the antiretroviral therapy, a considerable reduction of the level of the quality of the treatments and no more rights to privacy and confidentiality.
During these months, many sick people have abandoned their treatment, many are demoralised because of the increase in stigma and discrimination towards them, the level of adherence to the treatment has decreased and the number of deaths from AIDS has increased.
The Community of Sant’Egidio, together with other representatives of the Mozambican civilian society, is concerned about the suffering of so many sick people, so it put together the experiences of many confused and desperate patients and promoted a march aiming to make the Government and the public opinion aware of the situation and ask for the right to treatment for AIDS for the many Mozambicans who need it: effective, accessible, high quality treatment.
The march took place in several towns throughout the country.
In Maputo the march crossed one of the city’s main roads and ended at the Ministry of Health, where the appeal, signed by thousands of sick people, was read out to the Minister, in front of the National and International press.
The appeal is for high quality treatment to be guaranteed to everyone, free of charge, in specific facilities, with no stigma or discrimination of the patients.
Several coaches arrived at the meeting place, bringing sick people from all over the city and also from around the whole Province. There were also delegations of sick people from the Province of Gaza.
Everyone was wearing a piece of material around their wrist and this became the symbol of the commitment to a shared fight.
There were many banners demanding the right to live and equal treatment for the country’s whole population. There were also many professional health workers and some personalities from the world of Mozambican entertainment and culture, and many ordinary citizens, students and families who also came to join the protest.
In the end 3,000 people delivered the thousands of signatures with the request to amend the decisions taken and to set up a committee with the associations of seropositive people, in order to work towards guaranteeing fairer assistance and treatment for AIDS.
On the occasion of the march, the Eu DREAM Association provided and circulated a telephone helpline and an email address, which everyone who has AIDS can use if they wish, both to ask for help and to report cases of dysfunctions of the national health service, and these cases will be collected and reported monthly to the Ministry of Health and to the press.
The march also took place in Beira, the second largest city in the country, and around 2,000 people took part, including people not only from the city, but also delegations from the whole Province and from the Province of Manica.
After the appeal had been read out in public the signatures that had been collected were given to the local health authorities.
At the same time in Quelimane, in Zambesia, there was a meeting of 200 sick people, who discussed their rights, thus joining the other towns’ protest.
The meeting ended with a collection of signatures and the appeal was read out over the local radio.
The Eu DREAM Association has organised many meetings to be held in the near future with patients from various towns in the country who wish to join this campaign, for a better life for themselves and for all the people with AIDS in Mozambique.