If stigma and discrimination are not addressed appropriately, it will result in more people getting infected with Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), thereby scuttling plans to end the menace by 2030.
The National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), yesterday, on Zero Discrimination Day, said widespread stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV adversely affect people’s willingness to take an HIV test. They argued that if people do not know their HIV status, the chances of those who are HIV positive transmitting the infection to their partners increases.
Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, said in a statement yesterday that data from 50 countries from the people living with HIV stigma index showed that one in eight people living with HIV is being denied health care. It noted that around 60 per cent of European Union/European Economic Area countries report that stigma and discrimination among health-care professionals remain a barrier to the provision of adequate HIV prevention services for men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs.
The UN Agency urged people to make some noise around zero discrimination, to speak up and prevent discrimination from standing in the way of achieving ambitions, goals and dreams.
Sidibé, said: “Everyone has the right to be treated with respect to live free from discrimination, coercion and abuse. Discrimination doesn’t just hurt individuals, it hurts everyone, whereas welcoming and embracing diversity in all its forms brings benefits for all.”
Director General of NACA, Dr. Sani Aliyu, in a statement yesterday said 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.
Aliyu said this landmark legislation makes provisions for the prevention of HIV-related discrimination and provides for access to healthcare and other services. He said it also provides for protection of the human rights and dignity of people living with HIV and those affected by AIDS in Nigeria.
The NACA DG said: “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 healthcare, education, and other social services will be reduced, if not eliminated altogether. 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.”
Zero discrimination is an integral part of UNAIDS’ vision and for this year’s Zero Discrimination Day, UNAIDS is calling for zero discrimination in health-care settings.
The right to health is a fundamental human right that includes access to affordable, timely and quality health-care services for all, yet discrimination remains widespread in health-care settings, creating a serious barrier to access to HIV services.