The director general, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr Sani Aliyu, has said that legal protection against HIV-related discrimination is essential for effective national response.
Dr Aliyu stated this at the National Advocacy Forum on Improved Access to Services and Reduction of Stigma and Discrimination against Key and Vulnerable Populations in Nigeria, held recently in Abuja.
He stated that lack of protective legislation or enforcement and the existence of punitive laws and punitive law enforcement can feed stigma and discrimination and hinder access to HIV services for people living with the virus.
Aliyu lamented that lack of stigma and discrimination reduce access to critical services, adversely affect health outcomes, and undermine human rights.
Lamenting further, the DG quoted the stigma index survey carried out in 2010, saying one in five persons living with HIV have been denied access to health services, including dental care, in the past year because of their status.
According to him, the study also revealed that 28 per cent of respondents have been forced to move or denied accommodation while 26 per cent have lost their jobs or source of income; about half of the respondents ascribed the situation to their HIV status.
He recalled that the Nigeria constitution, chapter IV, sections 33 – 44 offers general protection against discrimination and protects the rights of Nigerians. Adding that in 2014, the national HIV and AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act was passed into law.
Aliyu stated that the Act is written for and applies to all persons living with and affected by HIV and AIDS in the country, making it an offence to discriminate on the basis of one’s real or perceives HIV status.
To popularise the Act, he said NACA in collaboration with her partners has simplified it into pictorial and abridged versions and have also translated the Act into the three major Nigerian languages as well as Pidgin English.
According to him, the braille version was also produced to meet the need of person with sight impairment in order to integrate needs of persons with disabilities.
Speaking further, he said with the support of partners, the agency has developed a strategic plan for HIV stigma reduction aimed at eliminating of all forms of stigma and discrimination towards people living with and directly affected by HIV and AIDS in the country by 2020.
Aliyu therefore expressed hope that the forum will facilitate the implementation of the 2014 Act and other comprehensive strategies that address stigma and discrimination at the legal, institutional and community levels.
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