Kogi vows to domesticate anti-HIV stigma law

Health

… as DG of KOSACA denounces healthcare sector based stigma and discrimination

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.

Mr. Shaibu made this disclosure at the HIV/AIDS Stigma Clinic organised by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), in Kaba, Kogi State, on Friday, August 10, 2018. Beyond this commitment, the KOSACA DG 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.

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.’’

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.

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 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 facilities and absolute lack of confidentiality.’’

Steve 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’’.

Mr. Oyiza Audu, the Kogi State Secretary of the Network of People Living with HIV (NEPWHAN) espoused the sense of isolation, loneliness, low self-esteem and helplessness that persons living with HIV feel in containing the disease because of stigma.

According to him, ‘‘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.

Dr. Victor Popoola, AHF Nigeria Training Manager and the Kogi team lead is of the opinion that ‘‘the fear of stigma and discrimination ensures pregnant women at the community level shuns voluntary counselling and testing – the first step in reducing mother-to-child transmission.

According to him, ‘‘we have seen instances where stigma and discrimination forces mothers who are not on treatment to expose their babies to HIV infection because using alternative feeding methods other than breast feeding is simply out of the way, to not arouse suspicion, especially in rural communities’’.

AHF stigma Clinic according to Echey Ijezie, AHF Country Program Director ‘‘is a roving program in all AHF states and will build the necessary partnerships to stem the tide of stigma while ensuring that the anti-stigma law becomes operational to curb identified trends of stigma and to moderate institutionalised healthcare sector based HIV stigma and discrimination’’.

According to Steve Aborisade, Advocacy Marketing Marketing Manager of AHF Nigeria ‘‘AHF shall publish a ‘Stigma Digest’ which contains outcome of the Stigma Clinic and will be widely circulated to stakeholders as a resource material to aid further programming and support the protection of the human rights of individuals who are HIV positive’’


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