JOE EFFIONG, UYO,
Associations of people living with HIV/AIDS have appealledto Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel to assent to a bill enactred by the state house of assembly to curb stigmatization and discrimination against PLWHA
The bill which was passed by the assembly more than a year ago is still lying fallow to form the backlog of bills suffering non assent by the governor especially in the health management sector of the state.
Representatives of the Association of Women Living with HIV AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAN) and Network of People Living with HIV AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Mrs. Rachael Ignatius and Mrs Elizabeth Udo respectively, had joined the press conference to mark the World AIDS Day, on the theme; Equalise To End AIDS” in Uyo on Tuesday, at where they lamented over the real and potential desprivation their status has subjected them and their families.
They expressed sadness that their members including their children still suffer denial to public services in the state, reasoning that the low HIV/AIDS response in the state was due to the delayed in the executive assent to the HIV/AIDS Anti-Stigmatization and Discrimination Bill .
According to them, such stigmatisation and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS include denial of access to social and public services in the state, fear of confidentiality breach and gender discrimination among others.
Recall the United Nations General Assembly in 2001 declared that confronting stigma and discrimination is a prerequisite for effective HIV prevention and care.
Whereas the Anti-Stigmatization and Discrimination Bill if assented to, would eliminate all forms of discrimination based on HIV status; Create a supportive environment so that people living with HIV/AIDS can continue working under normal condition for as long as they are medically fit to do so; Promote appropriate and effective ways of managing HIV/AIDS in workplace, communities and other fields of human endeavours.
The Bill also seeks to guarantee equal opportunities in employment, public accommodation and transportation; protect medical information from being used against people living with HIV/AIDS and improve the emotional well-being and mental health of people living with HIV/AIDS among other benefits.
The Project Manager of the Akwa Ibom State Agency for the Control of AIDS, (AKSACA) Dr Igbemi Author Igbemi described the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day, “Equalise To End AIDS” as critical for discussion towards ending AIDS by 2020.
According to him, gender inequalities, inequalities faced by key populations, and inequalities between children and adults have had a negative impacts on AIDS response, hence the theme Equalise to end AIDS is a call to all of us to be courageous and intentionally cooperate to tackle all forms of inequalities in other to increase access to available and equal life-serving HIV services to every underserved sub-group.”
He commended the effort of the donor agencies and implementation partners for collaborating with the state government to control the disease in the state.
The PM assured that the AKSACA the Anti-Stigmatisation and Discrimination would soon be assented to by the governor and would be a major courageous and pragmatic steps forward.
The South South Zonal Coordinator of National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Mr. Nnamsno-owo Thomas said the zone has achieved so much with the surge programme and other projects and interventions.
The strides, Thomas added, have led to an increase in the number of people who have known their HIV status, number of treatment and expansion of HIV services to remote and hard to reach areas.
“In Spite of these achievements, there are certain structural factors that increase the risk of HIV infection and unequal access to HIV treatment and prevention services among the marginalised, vulnerable and key affected population groups. Inequalities in the HIV/AIDS response are based on HIV status, gender, age, income, education, geographical disparities, disability, etc.” Thomas added.
He said this year’s World AIDS Day seeks to Intensify awareness on these structural issues and to remove all economic, social, cultural and legal barriers in the HIV/AIDS response.