The director general (DG), Kogi State Agency for the Control of AIDS (KOSACA), Mr. Williams Shaibu has expressed strong commitment of the Kogi State government to ensure that the anti HIV stigma law is domesticated in the state before the end of 2018.
The HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act 2014 makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on their HIV status. It also prohibits any employer, individual or organization from requiring a person to take an HIV test as a precondition for employment or access to services.
Mr Shaibu, while speaking at the HIV/AIDS Stigma Clinic organised by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), in Kaba, Kogi State on Friday August 10, 2018, disclosed that aside the commitment, the agency is ready to actively collaborate with AHF to host an expanded stakeholders meeting which will urgently review and curb the ugly trend of HIV stigmatisation in healthcare settings as revealed by participants at the Clinic.
Country programme director of AHF, Dr. Echey Ijezie in his remarks said AHF Stigma Clinic arose from the need to ensure that the law which protects the rights and dignity of people living with HIV, which came into effect in 2014, is made to have broad impact on HIV prevention and treatment services and importantly, to guarantee a more supportive environment that allows people living with HIV to carry on their lives as normally as possible.
He said; “Testimonies shared during the Stigma Clinic suggest that much work is still needed to ensure that the rights of PLHIV are respected. The shades of reaction lend credence to the fear of HIV/AIDS still, which could be due to poor understanding of the disease process in the population, particularly among the healthcare providers.”
According to Steve Aborisade, AHF Advocacy and Marketing Manager, ‘‘Common discriminative acts among healthcare workers include: denial of treatment, or delivery of poor quality treatment and counselling services, segregation at healthcare facilitiesand absolute lack of confidentiality.
He said; “Stigma and discrimination are major obstacles to effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care in Nigeria. He added that stigmatisation is driven by ignorance, fear, misinformation, and denial, and reinforced by our weak health systems andpoor legal environment which ensures that hardly are anyone prosecuted for flouting the law.”
Also speaking, Mr Oyiza Audu, the Kogi State Secretary of the Network of People Living with HIV (NEPWHAN) stated that the sense of isolation, loneliness, low self-esteem and helplessness that persons living with HIV feel in containing the disease because of stigma.
‘‘It usually results in a lack of motivation to practice prevention by individuals’’. Mrs Christy Abayomi of the Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CiSHAN) said that stigma and discrimination prevents individuals from taking an HIV test while drastically impeding the necessary care seeking behaviour for those who test positive,” he said.
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