By Gabriel Olawale
As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to commemorate the 2019 Zero Discrimination Day against Persons Living With HIV/ AIDS, PLWHA, the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS, NIBUCAA in collaboration with HACEY Initiatives, has highlighted the urgent need to take action against laws which exclude persons living with HIV/AIDS from essential services or subject them to undue restrictions on how they live their lives.
At a media and youth forum by Access Bank to commemorate UNAIDS Zero Discrimination Day in Lagos, Executive Secretary of NIBUCAA, Gbenga Alabi, said everyone can play a part in ending discrimination as well as make a difference in the campaign.
He emphasised the importance of creating public awareness to the plights of persons living with HIV/AIDS, adding that, the lack of protective law enforcement and existence of punitive laws can fuel stigma and discrimination as well as hinder access to HIV services.
Commentin, Programme Director of HACEY Initiatives, Owolabi Isaiah, said due to stigma and discrimination, young people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria go through all forms of human right violations that expose them to isolation, lack of interest in seeking help or services
He said despite advances in the prevention and treatment of HIV, the shadow of HIV stigma still looms large, affecting people living with the disease. “While the quality of life has improved enormously for people with HIV in the past years, many of the same social and psychological barriers remain.”
Owolabi said learning to overcome HIV stigma is not always an easy thing as it requires a degree of self-reflection, as well as an honest assessment of victims, own personal biases and beliefs.
On her part, Head of Sustainability, Access Bank Plc, Mrs Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan said the bank has been in the forefront of the campaign against the stigmatization of persons living with HIV.
While urging Nigerians to stop stigmatisation against HIV and AIDS patients, Mrs Victor Laniyan said adopting a human rights approach to HIV and AIDS is in the best interests of public health and is key to eradicating stigma and discrimination.
The Zero Discrimination Day since 2014 has been commemorated annually on the 1st of March as a global event that promotes diversity and recognizes that everyone counts.