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President Goodluck Jonathan signs HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination ACT 2014 to law

Almost all HIV-positive people in Nigeria are receiving treatment – Expert

The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, H.E Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR, has recently signed the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination ACT 2014, a reflection of Nigeria’s commitment to stopping all forms of stigmatization and discrimination targeted at people living with HIV/ AIDS.

The law is the latest addition to Nigeria’s commitment to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. During the past four years alone, close to four million pregnant women were tested for HIV and now know their status, while 8.2 million adults in the general population were tested.

By 2013, the number of HIV infections had declined by 35% and Nigeria is pursuing efforts to stop new infections altogether. The number of sites providing services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV increased from 675 in 2010 to 5,622 in 2013.

Transport workers and members of the Armed Forces and Police are also considered high-risk. It has been found that individuals that fall under these groups and their partners account for 40 percent of new HIV infections in Nigeria.

Worldwide, Nigeria has the second highest number of new infections reported each year, and an estimated 3.7 percent of the population are living with HIV. Although HIV prevalence is much lower in Nigeria than in other African countries, such as South Africa and Zambia, the size of Nigeria’s population which is about 170million people means that by the end of 2011, there were an estimated 3.4 million people living with HIV.

“This is such a groundbreaking news; I am certain that every organization committed to the fight is further encouraged to increase their efforts to achieve a HIV/AIDS free generation especially in Nigeria.” Friends Africa’s CEO, Akudo Anyanwu Ikemba, a doctor, said.

“We would however love to see more targeted focus in ensuring the  implementation of this new act so that this remarkable milestone will lead to a drastic reduction in the number of people living with HIV/AIDS” Akudo adds.

Read also: Introduce more friendly economic policies, experts tell CBN

What this means is that people with the HIV status will not be discriminated against and they will also enjoy services accrued to every Nigerian.

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“This is a New Year gift from the President to the 3.5 million Nigerians living with HIV. We appreciate this unprecedented development as it is the beginning of the end to stigma and discrimination in Nigeria” National Secretary, The Network of People Living with HIV in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Victor Omosehin revealed.

Speaking with BusinessDay, Lucy Attah-Enyia who has been living with HIV for over 16 years is particularly excited about the latest development. Fortunately, her three children are negative, thanks to antiretroviral drugs. She is the CEO of Women and Children of Hope established in 2000 to support women and children living with HIV.

“When I found out my HIV status, it was a rude shock for me. I went through my share of stigmatisation, I lost some friends but others stayed. It was really a trying period for me but now, I am bold to share my experiences with people and educate people on HIV/AIDS and the way forward.” Lucy stated.

Excited about the latest decision by President Goodluck Jonathan, Lucy has this to say “This is something that has been long awaited for and I am glad The President took this laudable move to help give us the privileges many of us have been denied. We pray the execution is smooth because it is one thing to put something to law and another for it to be executed effectively.” She said.

One major challenge for HIV is finance and the majority of the funding comes from development partners. The main donors are PEPFAR, the Global Fund and the World Bank.

In 2002, the World Bank loaned US$90.3 million to Nigeria to support the 5-year HIV/AIDS Programme Development Project. In May 2007 it was announced that the World Bank were to allocate a further US$50 million loan for the programme. Following the success of this programme, the World Bank went on to contribute a further US$225 million towards an HIV/AIDS Programme Development Project II (2009-2013) set to run until 2015, due to delays signing the credit agreement. Through PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) the United States has allocated a large amount of money to Nigeria. In financial year 2011, PEPFAR provided approximately US$488.6 million to Nigeria for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care.

By August 2012, the Global Fund had approved US$360,454,493, and disbursed US$275,586,635 in funds for Nigeria to expand HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention, and care programmes. Most recent funding has been focused on decentralising HIV prevention, support and care to make it available in primary care facilities and at a community level, to increase gender sensitive prevention interventions and to expand antiretroviral treatment access across secondary health facilities.

Though Nigeria continues to be home to 10 percent of the global population of people living with HIV, and may have a long way to go in tackling its devastating HIV and AIDS epidemic, analysts have opined that if the government and other stakeholders constantly help create awareness about the scourge, make life worth living for HIV patients (through for instance the President’s recent signing of the HIV and AIDS Anti-Discrimination ACT 2014), ensure the Act is effectively utilised and the process of execution monitored, Nigeria will be able to end the AIDS pandemic by 2030.

Kemi Ajumobi