By Bianca Iboma
A non-governmental organisation, Lift Above Poverty (LAPO), has enjoined Nigerians to stop discriminating against people living with the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Regional Manager of LAPO, Mrs. Vivian Evbotokhai, said many people living with HIV/AIDS avoid hospitals and live a secluded life, having suffered discrimination because of their status.
At a health screening recently organised in Lagos by LAPO, she said all forms of discrimination were unacceptable and explained that it could hamper response to treatment. She urged Nigerians to check their status quarterly and to be regularly educated on the various ways the virus is transmitted.
“The virus can be avoided through safe sex, good hospital practices, especially for pregnant women and nursing mothers, who are vulnerable to the ailment,” she said. Evbotokhai identified self-stigma as another major issue for people living with HIV. She said others might not have experienced direct discrimination, but could decide not to marry or have children for fear of discrimination, so, “Awareness campaign and sensitisation should be intensified to enable government and civil societie groups partner effectively to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination.” She added that the exercise was designed to associate with victims of discrimination and reassure them that they were not alone in the struggle. The NGO boss stated that, in urban and rural areas in Nigeria, HIV/AIDS was more common among females. She stressed that although the infection has been with Nigeria for a long time, more platforms need to be explored to enlighten people about the pandemic disease.
Evbotokhai noted that safe disposal of contaminated objects would help curb the spread of the virus that has claimed many lives and urged government at the federal, state and local levels to do more. In her words, apart from the antiretroviral drug given to patients, other tests and services should be rendered free. She said it was unfortunate that, in some places, patients were being asked to pay for laboratory services, thereby stopping those who could not afford the cost from accessing comprehensive care.
“HIV/AIDS has been one of the leading causes of death among women and adolescent girls of reproductive age. Despite the continuous efforts by various organisations to curb the spread of the disease, a lot of people still, out of ignorance, live with the virus, thereby endangering the lives of others,” she said.