By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- THE Network of People Living With HIV and AIDS in Nigeria, NEPWHAN, yesterday, commenced sensitisation of Nigerians on the Anti-discrimination Act 2014, on stigmatisation of people living with HIV.
The National Coordinator, NEPWHAN, Victor Olaore, said the sensitisation about the law will create awareness about the penalty of discrimination and stigmatisation against people living with HIV.
He said: “Stigma and discrimination is still high in the country, especially in the community, people living with HIV still suffer high level of stigmatisation. In fact, even in the facility they are expected to receive treatment, most people still get stigmatised in the work place, and we felt that the stigma index survey that was conducted in the country shows evidence of documented cases of what people living with HIV suffer.
“These are the tools that have helped us to advocate for the passage of Anti-discrimination Bill. Now that we have the law, since 2014, many Nigerians are not aware that such a law exists – not even people living with HIV in our communities in the country are aware that we have a law that protects the rights and dignity of people living with HIV.
“This law has very comprehensive content and is detailed enough, and there is no excuse about it, and we want to make it clear that people will not say they are not aware of the law.
“We have plan to also step down the dissemination at the state level, we are disseminating this document to 1, 030 support groups we have across the country, and we are going to distribute it all over the states, and more partners and media in each state are going to be aware that we have this law at the national level.
“We want to educate people living HIV that there is a legal framework that can protect their right and their dignity in the country. We want the employers of labour and every other person in the society to know that there is this law that has been in existence in the country since 2014, and people should stop stigmatisation, denying employment of highly productive Nigerians irrespective of their HIV status.”
According to him NEPWHAN will set up hotlines where people living with HIV who have crisis or being stigmatised could call in and have referral and legal services, as the organisation has partnered with Human Rights Commission on issues of discrimination and stigmatisation.
Meanwhile, a 26 year old woman, Gloria Asuquo, and a member of Association of Positive Youths Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, narrated her ordeal of stigmatisation and discrimination.
“At the earlier stage in 1999 I had to run away from the village I lived because of the stigma. I was stigmatised from my church, at home, in the community. I tested positive when I was 11 years old, and it was through blood transfusion I got infected in a general hospital.
“After my rescue and treatment at Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital, I stood with people living with HIV, and for them to stand for their right. I was denied admission as a result of my status, which they withdrew my admission letter.
“My advice for people living with HIV is for them to be happy because the federal government have recognised them and they should go to the health facility and most of them don’t like going to the hospital because of stigma, and they should go for the treatment, and if any further discrimination they should call and report, and we will take it up”, she stated.
Originally published in Uncova