both the legal and social environments are still failing to address stigma and discrimination against those most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and people living with the disease.This is according to Stephanie Joseph-De Goes, Guyana’s Country Coordinator for the President’s EmergencyStephanie Joseph-De Goes delivering her remarks at Guyana’s seventh Annual AIDS Candlelight MemorialPlan For AIDS Relief – PEPFAR, a US governmental initiative to address the global HIV epidemic with her office based at the US Embassy in Georgetown.She made those remarks at Guyana’s seventh Annual AIDS Candlelight Memorial held at the Catholic Life Centre by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) on Sunday last, where a charge was made to all Guyanese to come together to fight against the stigma and discrimination for those living and infected by HIV/AIDS.“We must put an end to the disease of stigma and discrimination,” she stressed.During the event, the US diplomat remarked that in this 50th year of Guyana’s Independence, the country can truly make history by amending the Prevention of Discrimination Act 1997 to include sexual orientation, gender identity and health status, and repealing other laws that perpetuate stigma and discrimination.“Stigma and discrimination eats at the soul of a society. We know that eliminating stigma and discrimination will positively affect a nation’s progress, well-being, and public health for things like HIV prevention, care and treatment.”The US activist continued, “I ask you what is holding us back from zero discrimination. From ensuring human rights, equal rights for all no matter a person’s health status, gender identify or sexual orientation. When it comes down to it, I think it’s our personal judgments about difference.”She lamented that too often individuals use belief, religion, culture, etc, to judge others on differences: be it one’s skin colour, sexual identity, or health status. “Whatever the difference might be that does not fit into our worldview. Then we focus so much on those perceived differences that we forget our ‘sameness’. We forget what unites us – our ‘humanness,’” she pleaded.Joseph-De Goes posited that it was hard to get to zero discrimination because society and those in policymaking positions were so busy judging the differences instead of recognising the strengths in individual identities.“How can we deny human rights, compassion and love?” she questioned.According to the US diplomat, “we cannot afford to say we cannot support amending the Prevention of Discrimination Act because of religion, beliefs, culture, etc”.“We know what has been done in the name of belief – human atrocities and ‘man’s inhumanity to man. Will we continue to allow injustices in the name of belief and ‘difference’?”She charged Guyanese society to work together for equality and to recognise that denying any one of us the right to justice, equity, access, security, education, health and employment – human rights – is denying all of us.“Let us decide to work together towards a Guyana where laws protect the human rights and the dignity of all. Guyana’s time is now. We are at the 50-year mark. Let us join forces to support the amendment of not just the 1997 Prevention of Discrimination Act but also all other punitive laws,” Joseph-De Goes said.She expressed hope that in the next 50 years, Guyana can be a nation with zero discrimination and 100 per cent human rights so that every person whether HIV-positive, HIV-negative, heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual, lives in dignity with the rights to employment, health, safety and security.