A non-governmental organization, Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) on Tuesday called for the domestication of the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act in Kogi State.
Kogi State Team Leader of AHF, Dr Victor Poopola made the call when he led some members of civil society organisations on an advocacy visit to the State Ministry for Women Affairs and Social Development.
He said domesticating the Act would go a long way in addressing the issue of stigmatisation and discrimination facing the people living with HIV/AIDS in the state.
He said that the HIV/AIDS burden in the state is still of concern, adding that of the 46,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Kogi, only about half of them are not coming out for treatment and care due to the issue of stigmatisation.
According to him, a lot of people living with HIV/AIDS, especially women have been thrown out of their homes while others had been denied their fundamental rights for no faults of theirs.
He said the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination and Stigmatisation Act which was passed in 2014 and signed into law in 2015 by former President Goodluck Jonathan was yet to be domesticated.
“The advocacy visit is to see how the Anti HIV/AIDS Discrimination and Stigmatisation Act is domesticated in Kogi state. It was passed into law in the country in 2014 but it has not been domesticated in the state.
“When you look at the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS problems in Kogi State, it is huge. The last sentinel survey indicates that Kogi State’s prevalent rate is 3.3% which is a little higher the national prevalence rate.
“This means that a lot of people are living with the virus. We cannot continue to claim oblivion of the fact that a lot of people have been affected and many of them are facing stigmatisation. A lot of people that are infected are not coming out to access treatment because of fear of stigmatisation and discrimination.
“There are cases of people being chased out of their homes because of their HIV/AIDS status. A lot of people are being denied access to education and access to getting gainful employment.
“Recently we had a stigma clinic where we heard first hand testimonies from persons that have suffered stigma and you will not but shed tears because a lot of them had been chased out of their homes and denied basic human rights. So, we felt we could do something to get the laws domesticated for the good of the people of Kogi State.
“AHF is an international NGO working over the last 30 years globally. We are the largest AIDS organisation in the whole world. We are having close to 1 million people on treatment and we are in over 41 countries. We have over 400 treatment centers across the globe”, he said.
He said AHF Nigeria under the leadership of its Country Director, Dr Echey Ijezie have been able to push significantly to ensure that persons living with the virus have a dignified life and have a better treatment outcome.
“We have been in existence in Nigeria in last 7 years. Our mission is to provide cutting edge medicine and advocacy regardless of your ability to pay. AHF is committed to ensuring that we contribute significantly to HIV/AIDS response in order to bring the epidemic to an end in the nearest future.
He said in Kogi State, AHF has provided testing services to hundreds of thousands of persons and currently has close to 200,000 people living with the virus on treatment across over 10 treatment sites in the state.
According to him, AHF in collaboration with the Federal Government of Nigeria and the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA) had produced a simplified version of the Nigeria’s HIV and AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act, 2014 which are being distributed across the federation to further sensitised the people.
Responding, the Kogi State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Bolanle Amupitan, who also expressed worry over the issue, assured that his ministry would give the needed push to ensure the Act is domesticated in Kogi State.
She noted that women and children were the worst affected when it comes to the issues of stigmatisation and discrimination, adding that the Ministry would liaise with the ministry of Justice, the state assembly and other stakeholders to ensure the domestication of the Act.
Amupitan however emphasised the need for more sensitisation campaign to be carried out by civil society organisations and NGOs as part of measures to address the issue of stigmatisation and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.
Credits: Daily Trust