Experts in the Nigerian healthcare sector have called for more education on HIV/AIDS to enable the country achieves zero discrimination against person living with the virus.
The experts who spoke at a media and youth forum organised by the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NIBUCAA) in collaboration with Hacey Health Initiative and Access Bank in commemoration of the 219 Zero Discrimination Day against persons living with the disease also called for concerted actions to tackle the issue.
“We have amazing laws protecting people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria but the implementation is the issue. We do not walk the talk in Nigeria and many of the people living with the virus do not even know if such laws that protect them exists,” Elizabeth Williams, founder, Sustainable Impact and Development Initiative for Adolescent and Youth said at the forum.
“We need to educate our people about the wrong misconceptions and myths against people living with HIV/AIDS which have continued to fuel discrimination,” Williams said.
She urged persons living with HIV/AIDS to always fight for their rights within the law.
Also speaking, Adegboye Fredrick, a reporter with the Nation Newspapers who has been living with the virus since 2003 said he has faced lots of discrimination since knowing his status.
“I faced lots of stigmatisation then when I just realised then but I was able to conquer it,” he said.
Fredrick says he has not experience any work place discrimination since working but narrated his ordeal as a student in the in the Nigeria Institute of Journalism.
He stated that is admission was revoked when he disclosed his status his status to the school administration and was later reinstated after an NGO came to his recuse to fight for his human right.
The journalist noted that he was able to conquer stigmatisation because he never stigmatise himself. “Stigma and discrimination is an affront to human rights and puts the lives of people living with HIV and key populations in danger,” Adegboye said.
Gbenga Alabi, executive secretary of NIBUCAA said everyone can play a part in ending discrimination and can try to make a difference, in ways both big and small.
“Ending discrimination and creating laws are the responsibility of all of us which includes the government, private sector and everyone,” Alabi said
He appreciated the government for passing into law the bill protecting persons with HIV/AIDS but noted that implementation needs to take place. “It is not just enough that we talk and laws and policies that remain dormant, but we must also take actions,” he added.
Similarly, Isaiah Owolabi, project director, Hacey Initiative said “The fight to tackle HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and Africa at large is a collaborative effort. We believe it can be achieved and that is why we continue to seek for these collaborations.”