HIV/AIDS: It’s Zero Discrimination Day

Three decades after HIV/AIDS was first properly diagnosed, the medical world has made tremendous progress in stemming the infection rate, with a growing number of infected persons being able to access antiretroviral therapy that has made living with the disease less dangerous.

Again, fewer babies are being born with HIV, thanks to the innovation of prevention of mother-to child transmission; though much remains to be done as the number of newly infected people is still high, and many adults and children who need ART do not have access to it.

Beyond these challenges, experts have continued to decry the stigmatization and discrimination that Persons Living With HIV/AIDS must endure.

Consequently, March 1 of every year has been set aside to secure support for PLWHA, and to end the discrimination inherent towards their condition.

A press release signed by Head, Corporate Communications Unit of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Mrs. Toyin Aderibigbe, notes that People Living with HIV continue to face various forms of stigma, discrimination, and violations of their rights and dignity, which are barriers to the efforts to scale up access to comprehensive care, treatment, and support.

Quoting NACA’s Director-General, Dr. Sani Aliyu, the release states, “Stigma and discrimination have become major stumbling blocks to HIV and AIDS mitigation programmes, as they discourage people from using HIV Counseling and Testing services and pose a barrier to accessing treatment.”

Again, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr. Michel Sidibe, said, “Everyone has the right to be treated with respect, to live free from discrimination, coercion and abuse.”

Sidibe warned that discrimination doesn’t just hurt individuals, it hurts everyone; whereas welcoming and embracing diversity in all its forms brings benefits for all.

Experts say if stigma and discrimination are not addressed appropriately, it will result in more people acquiring HIV.

“Widespread stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV adversely affect people’s willingness to undergo HIV test.

“And if people do not know their HIV status, the chances of those who are HIV-positive transmitting the infection to their partners increase,” Aliyu warned.

The HIV and AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act 2014 is a reflection of Nigeria’s commitment to stopping all forms of stigmatisation and discrimination targeted at people living with HIV.

This landmark legislation makes provisions for the prevention of HIV-related discrimination and provides for access to health care and other services.

It also provides for protection of the human rights and dignity of people living with HIV and those affected by AIDS in Nigeria.

The new law is a source of renewed hope that all acts of discrimination against people living with HIV, such as recruitment and termination of employment, denial of access to services including health care, education, and other social services will be reduced, if not eliminated altogether.

Aliyu said, “We welcome this law as the latest addition to Nigeria’s commitment to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

“As we look forward to the end of the AIDS epidemic by 2030, the Government of Nigeria remains fully committed to improving the health of Nigerians and getting to zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination.”

Source: Punch

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