By Sola Ogundipe & Henry Umoru
ABUJA—SENATE President, Bukola Saraki, called for an end to all forms of discrimination and stigmatization against persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Saraki spoke as World Health Organisation, WHO, declared yesterday that more than 18 million people living with HIV had no access to treatment
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki noted that discriminatory attitudes in society often led to people being apprehensive of getting tested and HIV positive persons failing to access treatment and spreading the pandemic.
He said: “We need to acknowledge that reports have shown that stigmatization kills people faster than infection.
“Nigeria must put in place a zero discrimination policy for HIV/AIDS and all health related ailments.”
Saraki said the Senate would be looking into how the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act of 2014, which was signed into law during the former administration, was being implemented by law enforcement agencies.
“We need to send a strong message that people living with HIV/AIDS are a part of our society.
‘’By enforcing the laws passed by the National Assembly, we can prohibit discrimination by employers, individuals and organizations.
“As we strengthen these enforcement mechanisms to create more inclusion, governments across all levels must work with our local and international partners to build awareness about HIV/AIDS, and create a more supportive environment that will allow those living with HIV/AIDS to live fulfilling lives,” he said.
More than 3.5million people in Nigeria are said to be currently living with HIV. This represents 3.2% of the nation’s adult population.
Meanwhile, as the world marks this year’s World AIDS Day, the World Health Organisation says more than 18 million people, the majority of which are unaware of their HIV positive status, are unable to access treatment.
The global health body pointed out that even though a similar number of persons livings with HIV are currently onantiretroviral (ARV) treatment, no less than 40 per cent of all people with HIV (over 14 million) remain unaware of their status.
A progress report identified lack of an HIV diagnosis as a major obstacle to implementing the recommendation that everyone with HIV should be offered antiretroviral therapy (ART).
In advance of World AIDS Day, WHO released new guidelines on HIV self-testing to improve access to, and uptake of HIV diagnosis.
According to the WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, many people at higher risk of HIV infection often find it difficult to access existing testing services.
“Millions of people with HIV are still missing out on life-saving treatment, which can also prevent HIV transmission to others.
” HIV self-testing should open the door for many more people to know their HIV status and find out how to get treatment and access prevention services.”