On November 16th, the world community will observe the 19th International Day for Tolerance. This day provides an opportunity to highlight the vital contribution of tolerance and acceptance to improving public health.
The U.S. government is proud to partner with the people and government of Nigeria to implement the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to help achieve an AIDS-free generation. In recent months, we have worked tirelessly to align our resources and programs with both the Nigerian government’s priorities and the U.S. government’s commitment to delivering the right support, in the right places, at the right time. Our efforts include careful planning to ensure that we are reaching the right people with urgently needed programs, resources, and funding.
In every country, tolerance is key to providing access to care for people who are at high risk of either acquiring or transmitting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Programs and policies must recognize that eliminating stigma and discrimination is critical to ensuring that all people feel safe accessing HIV/AIDS care and treatment services. There is no doubt that programs that treat people with dignity and respect will have the greatest impact. Indeed, one of the most moving moments of my one year in Nigeria took place in Kano, when my wife and I met with HIV positive young mothers and then held their infants who, thanks to our joint efforts, are HIV negative.
While we work to achieve an AIDS-free generation, any intolerance that creates barriers for any marginalized or vulnerable groups from accessing essential services can lead to considerable loss of life and increases the risk of people who previously had little or no risk. Tolerance requires treating everyone, even those who are different than us, with dignity and respect.
On this International Day for Tolerance, let us affirm that all persons who suffer the negative health effects of discrimination, such as persons with disabilities, should also be free to access and receive essential health services from providers who treat them with tolerance, dignity and respect.
Join me in reaching out to everyone in need so that together we may achieve that longed-for goal of an AIDS-free generation in Nigeria and around the world.
By James F. Entwistle, U.S. Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria
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