By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The Director General (DG), Kogi State Agency for the Control of AIDS (KOSACA), Mr. Williams Shaibu has expressed commitment of the Kogi State government to ensure that the anti HIV stigma law is domesticated in the state before the end of 2018.
A statement issued yesterday by the Advocacy & Marketing Manager of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Steve Aborisade, indicated that Mr. Shaibu made the disclosure at the HIV/AIDS Stigma Clinic organised by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), in Kaba, Kogi State, on Friday, August 10, 2018.
It added that the KOSACA DG also expressed the readiness of the agency to actively collaborate with AHF to convene an expanded stakeholders meeting which will urgently review and arrest the ugly trend of HIV stigmatisation in healthcare settings as revealed by participants at the Clinic.
“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.”
On his part, Dr. Echey Ijezie, AHF Nigeria Country Program Director, said that ‘‘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.’’
The statement further said that 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 Aborisade, stigma and discrimination experienced within the health sector represents one of the most inimical forms of institutional stigma, and tops recorded experiences of stigmatisation by individuals at the Stigma Clinic.
“Common discriminative acts among healthcare workers include: denial of treatment, or delivery of poor quality treatment and counselling services, segregation at healthcare facilities and absolute lack of confidentiality.’’
Aborisade is of the opinion that stigma and discrimination are major obstacles to effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care in Nigeria. According to him ‘‘Stigmatisation is driven by ignorance, fear, misinformation, and denial, and reinforced by our weak health systems and poor legal environment which ensures that hardly are anyone prosecuted for flouting the law’’.