The National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, has warned against the danger that stigmatisation and discrimination against people living with HIV pose to Nigeria meeting the global goal of ending the HIV scourge by 2030.
The Director General of the Agency, Sani Aliyu, gave the warning in a statement on Wednesday to mark the Zero Discrimination Day being celebrated across the globe.
Mr. Aliyu said stigmatisation and discrimination would discourage people from going for HIV test and result in more people acquiring the virus.
“Widespread stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV adversely affect people’s willingness to take an HIV test. If people do not know their HIV status, the chances of those who are HIV positive transmitting the infection to their partners increases”, Mr. Aliyu stated.
People living with HIV continue to face various forms of stigmatisation, discrimination and violations of their rights and dignity, which are barriers to the efforts to scale up access to comprehensive care, treatment, and support.
These have been described as major stumbling blocks to HIV and AIDS mitigation programmes as they discourage people from using HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT) services and pose a barrier to accessing treatment.
Mr. Aliyu praised the Nigerian authorities for enacting the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act 2014, which aims to eliminate discrimination towards people living with HIV, as a step in the right direction.
The landmark legislation makes provisions for the prevention of HIV-related discrimination and provides for access to healthcare and other services. It also provides for protection of human rights and dignity of people living with HIV and those affected by AIDS in Nigeria.
The NACA boss said the Act is a reflection of Nigeria’s commitment to stopping all forms of stigmatisation and discrimination targeted at people living with HIV. He urged that the law be implemented effectively throughout the country.
“As we look forward to the end of the AIDS epidemic by 2030, the Government of Nigeria remains fully committed to improving the health of Nigerians and getting to zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero discrimination”, Mr. Aliyu said.
The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, in his remarks on the significance of the Day said “Everyone has the right to be treated with respect, to live free from discrimination, coercion and abuse.”
“Discrimination doesn’t just hurt individuals, it hurts everyone, whereas welcoming and embracing diversity in all its forms brings benefits for all”, he said.