Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has emphasised the need for stakeholders to come together with a view to finding a lasting solution to the twin challenges of stigma and discrimination being faced by people living with HIV.
The decision was arrived at during and event tagged ‘Stigma Clinic’ held in Makurdi, the Benue State capital and organised by the AHF even as a working committee is to be constituted in Benue State for the purpose of advocacy, awareness and affirmative actions to eliminate stigmatisation of people on the basis of their HIV status.
Speaking at the meeting, AHF-Nigeria Advocacy & Marketing Manager, Mr. Steve Aborisade reiterated the commitment of AHF to supporting avenues for dialogue.
“AHF is a friend of the patient community and is committed to supporting avenues for dialogue, which the ‘Stigma Clinic’ represents, by government, clients and other stakeholders who are crucial to finding a lasting solution.
In a remark, Benue State Coordinator of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Barrister Tyoyer Joshua, urged those who are “affected or infected” with HIV/AIDS to speak out especially as there is a law in place against discrimination to fight their case.
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Barr. Tyoyer, who took participants through the Anti – Discrimination Act, 2014, warned that there are penalties for individual and institutional discrimination as well as disclosure of information without consent. Mr. Tyoyer, said the NHRC is ready to partner AHF in the state for results.
Also, Senior Regional Medical Manager of AHF Benue State Office, Dr. Greg Abiaziem, told participants at the clinic that stigma remains the greatest driving force that is inhibiting the control of the AIDS pandemic.
Abiaziem who noted that there was the need for stakeholders to join hands and eradicate stigmatisation however commended the Benue State Government for providing AHF with the enabling environment to operate in the state.
One of the clients, a minor who was born with HIV (names withheld), in an emotion laden voice recalled how members of her immediate family treated her like a plague when they got to know about her HIV positive status.
“Even my sisters at home warned me to stop sharing things with them. I was given my cup and plates and I dare not touch what others use” she said.
The Benue State AIDS Programme Coordinator Dr. Ugboji John, commended AHF for organizing the clinic pointing out that the major problem in the fight against HIV/AIDS was stigma, and added that the moment it was eradicated, the pandamic would have been brought under control.
In attendance were Stakeholders including government officials, civil society organisations, agencies of government and social associations.