World AIDS Day: Groups urge Emmanuel to sign anti-stigma Bill into law
The Akwa Ibom State Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAN) has appealed to Governor Udom Emmanuel to give assent to the Anti-Stigmatisation and Discrimination Bill recently passed by the State House of Assembly.
The State Coordinator of ASWHAN, Rachael Raphael made the call in a goodwill message she presented at the event marking this year’s World AIDS Day in Uyo, the state capital.
She said that the call became necessary in order to give them a sense of belonging, stressing that the people living with HIV in the state have been discriminated against at both social and public settings, including employment into the state civil service.
Raphael said that the Bill if assented to by the Governor and implemented in the state, would not only give ASWHAN members and others living with the virus boldness in their various communities and career but also would assist the state to achieve the vision of ending HIV in 2030.
She also appealed for more support and funding to Akwa Ibom State Agency for the Control of AIDS (AKSACA) in order to facilitate its control of the epidemic in the state.
“I want to humbly appeal to the state governor, Udom Emmanuel to please sign into law the HIV/AIDS Ant-Stigmatisation and Discrimination Bill recently passed by State House of Assembly, but now awaiting his assent.
“I am appealing for more funding from the state government and partners to AKSACA to enable the Agency to carry out its programmes on ending the HIV AIDS pandemic in the state,” the ASWHAN State’s Coordinator stated.
In her reaction also, the State Coordinator of the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Akwa Ibom State chapter, Elizabeth Udo who thanked donor agencies for being of tremendous help to those living with HIV in the state, wondered how the condition of the people would have been if the agencies had not supported them by giving out life-saving drugs free, testing and counselling as well as other forms of assistance to the affected.
She added: “It is high time the state government rose to the responsibility of putting more funds in AKSACA to enable it to meet the daunting challenges of HIV/AIDS response and control because after donor agencies, what next?”
NEPWHAN Coordinator, who also expressed worry over the delay by the state governor to sign the States Anti-stigma bill into law, said until the bill is assented to, there would still be discrimination against people living with HIV.
The Project Manager of AKSACA, Authur Igbemi who also commended the state government and donor agencies for being passionate about the wellbeing of People Living with HIV in the state, called for all hands to be on deck to end the pandemic for a safer society.
Igbemi advised against all forms of discrimination against people living with HIV and pleaded for a positive mindset and love towards them, stressing that “until this is done, HIV will still be with us.”
Speaking earlier during a press conference in Uyo to mark the World AIDS Day in the state, representative of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Idayat Uthman stressed the need to have the right policy environment, correct strategy, framework and right system including the health system, community and other supporting systems in Nigeria if the nation must get it right.
She said that although the Federal Government has commenced incremental payment for the treatment of Nigerians living with HIV using domestic resources at 17 percent vs 83 percent programme resource contribution between the government and donors respectively, there were still some funding gaps that the country needed to address as the nation progresses towards epidemic control.
“There is an urgent need for states to redeem their commitments to release 0.5 to 1.0 percent of their Federal Monthly Allocations to support the HIV response in their states. For example, states should invest more in the procurement of HIV test kits as part of their counterparts contributions.
“This will go a long way towards halting the decline of HIV positive pregnant women accessing Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission services. The Nigerian government needs to stop viewing healthcare as consumption goods. Health is a sensible investment, a nation’s source of wealth,” she said.
The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is ‘End inequalities, End AIDS, End pandemic’ and it is to highlight the new strategic direction for ending AIDS.