July 20, 2023

HIV/AIDS: Public institutions, others warned against stigmatisation


The Oyo State Government has warned public institutions, corporate bodies and other social institutions to desist from any form of discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS in the state.

Dr Lanre Abass, Executive Secretary, Oyo State Agency for the Control of AIDS (OYSACA), gave the warning Thursday in Ibadan during a town hall meeting/media engagement on the anti-stigma law.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting brought together experts from the fields of public health, law and human rights.

It was to raise awareness about the state’s HIV anti-stigma and discrimination law.

Abass said OYSACA has received complaints through repeated calls about cases of harassment and discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS in the state.

“This meeting is to create awareness on the anti-stigma law in the state. It is pertinent that strong awareness be created among the public on the Oyo State law that makes provision for the prevention of HIV and AIDS-based discrimination.

“In recent times, stigmatisation and discrimination have been on the increase and becoming a public health issue, and the menace has led to gender and human rights issues of all forms.

“These range from denial of education rights, marriage contract, dysfunctional homes, unlawful dissolution of marriage, termination of employment or denial of employment opportunities.

“HIV stigma is negative attitudes and beliefs about people with HIV. It is the prejudice that comes with labelling an individual as part of a group that is believed to be socially unacceptable.

“HIV stigma and discrimination affect the emotional well-being and mental health of people living with HIV. People living with HIV often internalise the stigma they experience and begin to develop a negative self-image,” he stated

Abass pointed out that it is pertinent that everyone is aware of the law prohibiting discrimination and stigmatisation against PLWHIV, saying ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

He recalled that there was an existing anti stigmatisation law in the state which was enacted in 2016.

The OYSACA executive secretary assured people with HIV/AIDS that the agency would always assist them to seek redress when faced with any form of harassment or discrimination.

He urged the media to give the event wide publicity because “media plays a major role in dissemination and publicity of information.”

Abass equally appreciated the state’s Ministry of Justice for its leading roles and collaboration with OYSACA.

”This is in working tirelessly to bring the law to enactment and ensuring that there is justice at all times whenever there is stigmatisation and discrimination against PLWHIV.”

In her lecture at the event, a legal officer, Mrs Dupe Awosemusi from the state Ministry of Justice, encouraged people with HIV/AIDS to refrain from internal stigmatisation.

”They also have to build self-confidence in relating with others, because HIV/AIDS is never a death sentence.

“It is not a death sentence, it is just one of the communicable diseases.

“We have other communicable diseases that kills faster than HIV but their carriers do not get discriminated against. HIV is something that can be treated and controlled,” Awosemusi said.

She declared that it was a crime in Oyo State for anyone to stigmatise or discriminate against people, based on their HIV status, because there’s anti stigmatisation law in the state.

The legal officer disclosed that there was a financial penalty and jail sentence for people discriminating against PLWHIV, and
it carries a penalty as high as N500,000 or a three to six-year imprisonment.