By Gabriel Olawale
With the recent Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey, NAIS report ranking Lagos as one of the seven states that account for 50 per cent of the burden of HIV/AIDs in Nigeria, the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency, LSACA, has declared zero tolerance for HIV stigmatisation and discrimination even as it conducted free HIV screening and counseling for 6,000 residents in three Local Government Areas of the State.
According to the Chief Executive Officer, of the Agency, Dr. Monsurat Adeleke, any form of stigmatisation and discrimination of persons living with HIV in the state will not be tolerated.
Adeleke who explained that HIV is no longer a death sentence urged Lagosians to know their HIV status so that if positive they can commence treatment early enough.
She further warned: “Don’t stigmatise people living with HIV because there is a law that can keep you in prison for 12 years. HIV is no longer a barrier to marriage because once the virus is low in your system you cannot transmit it to another person.
The Lagos State Government, in 2007, passed into law “the protection of persons living with HIV and affected by AIDS Law” 2007.
According to Section 1 of the Lagos State HIV and AIDS Protection Law, “the protection of all persons living with HIV and or affected by AIDS by among other things providing these persons with access to health care institutions in Lagos State including access to life-prolonging drugs, treatments and therapies is guaranteed”.
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The law states that persons living with HIV or affected by AIDS also have the right to voluntary counseling in all Public Health Institutions established in the state.
Adeleke also pointed out that: “If a pregnant mother is positive, the baby will come out negative with adequate treatment. The treatment is free in all government-owned hospitals and some private hospitals. HIV/AIDS is no longer a disease that can kill, it is no more a death sentence but a life sentence, so it’s good to know your status,” Adeleke remarked.
Speaking during the screening exercise which ran simultaneously in six locations, the LSACA CEO said that the Agency carries out HIV screening on regular basis in different locations but decided to expand the scope in the spirit of achieving the vision 90-90-90 by the year 2020.
“The two days HIV screening is going on in two locations in Amuwo-Odofin local government, Ajeromi ifelodun local government and Lagos Island Local government areas and has screened over 6,000 people.”
Further, Adeleke said the Agency introduced free blood pressure and glucose level check to encourage people to know their status. “Aside from the HIV test, we also offer blood pressure check, glucose level, and some drugs as an incentive for those that really need it.”
“Level of education is one of the major challenge but with the right counseling, they usually agree to do the test. Navigating different communities in Lagos another challenge because sometimes we have to cross the river through canoe, but our staff are committed to the State Government
“Right now the whole world is talking about 90-90-90 by year 2020, and HIV free generation by 2030. To achieve this mandate, we need to ensure that 90 per cent of people know their HIV status and 90 percent of people that tested positive are on drugs while 90 per cent of those on drugs have viral suppression.”
UNLAWFUL & DISCRIMINATORY ACTS
* Refusal of a Landlord to accept as a tenant a person living with HIV and or affected by AIDS
* Stigmatisation and denial of such a person free and easy access to a private or public health Institution
* Denial of the right of the affected person to pursue his or her academic career in an educational institution
* Discrimination and stigmatisation of such a person in any social, religious or political gathering
* Segregation, discrimination, and stigmatisation of the affected person at any place of employment Subjection of employees to compulsory and mandatory HIV test
* It is also unlawful for a person living with HIV or affected by AIDS to have his employment terminated by reason of his AIDS or HIV status.
* To provide some further guarantee for this provision, all corporate organisations are mandatorily required to have an HIV/AIDS policy for the benefit of their employees living with HIV and or affected by AIDS
Source: Lagos State HIV and AIDS Protection Law
The officer in Charge, United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA Lagos, Dr. Audu Alayande has said that with progress made with the HIV response nationwide, seven states including Lagos account for 50 per cent of the national burden of HIV while the incidence in females is significantly higher than in males – both among adolescents and young adults aged 15-24 years.
Meanwhile, as a targeted response to the Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey, NAIIS, that revealed that also in Lagos, increased incidence of HIV infection among young people, UNFPA in collaboration with the Lagos State Government through selected ministries and development partners weekend launched an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign entitled: “HIV-Aware.
The campaign will be implemented by Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative, YEDI, – an adolescent health and life skills development organization with support from the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency, LSACA, and Hacey’s Health Initiative.
According to NAIIS, Nigeria’s National HIV prevalence is 1.4 percent among adults aged 15–49 years, women aged 15–49 years are more than twice as likely to be living with HIV than men (1.9 percent versus 0.9 percent.)
Speaking during the official launch of the programme, Alayande said the recent report of NAIIS calls for an aggressive response in the state especially among adolescent and young people.
The HIV-Aware campaign is aimed at creating heightened awareness on the HIV prevalence in Lagos targeting young people especially females aged 15-24, in selected communities, as well as offering them an opportunity to gain actionable knowledge on healthy sexual and reproductive health behaviours, access HIV Counselling and Testing and receive referrals for required treatment.
The Director, Development Partnership, Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budgeting, Mr. Oduntan Bankole decried the increasing number of infections among young people since the last survey conducted in 2010, hence the need for the campaign.
The Assistant Director, HIV Desk, Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development, Mrs. Fibisola Taiwo said factors responsible for high HIV incidence among young people, including their adventurous nature of adolescents and poor parenting.
YEDI’s Executive Director, Oje Ivagba, said the campaign which targets young girls in selected disadvantaged communities in Lagos will deploy the organisation’s adolescent-specific and evidence-based fun, interactive, and engaging approach to drive home the message.