Despite the existence of anti-stigma Act in Nigeria, HIV- related stigma and discrimination remains a barrier to uptake of HIV testing, counselling and treatment.
The Anti Discrimination Act was enacted in 2014. The Act provides for the protection of fundamental human rights and dignity of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
The Act is against the discrimination and ill-treatment of people living with the virus in health facilities, religious places, schools among others.
It also states that no individual, community, institution and employer or employee shall discriminate, directly or indirectly, against any person in the society based on the person’s HIV status or perception of same in employment, delivery of services and other benefits
In spite of the existence of this Act, people living with the disease still suffer discrimination in their work places and even in health facilities.
This has not only heightened the burden of mother to child transmission but also a hindrance to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on HIV/AIDS by 2030.
In his remarks at the launch of the National Aids Indicator Survey (NAIS), recently in Abuja, the former minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said that HIV/ AIDs remains a persistent threat to the health of Nigerians and compromised past developmental gains,especially in the area of maternal and under five mortalities.
According to experts, antiretroviral drugs suppresses the viral loads of HIV, thereby making people who have been on treatment not to be able to transfer the virus.
But when people living with the virus are not accessing treatment, it poses a serious threat to the fight against new HIV infections and zero AIDs related death.
The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), said that it was important for all people living with HIV to get into treatment to achieve viral suppression.
The National Coordinator, Association of Positive Youth Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, Isah Muhammad, told news agencies that discrimination is one of the issues confronting people living with virus.
According to him, “when people go for interviews, they are asked to present their medical reports which include HIV, we all know that being HIV positive does not affect a person’s capacity but employers keep insisting on carrying out HIV test on applicants.
“Infact, there is a case in Abia State University currently where some students were asked to provide their HIV results before graduating from the school. What has the HIV status of students got to do with their graduation?”
Lamenting further, he said, “even in the hospitals, you will see nurses taking extra caution when attending to people living with HIV. You will even see some of them putting on extra hand gloves when ordinarily they are supposed to wear one hand glove. This attitude alone is discrimination.”
According to the 2014 HIV Sentinel (ANC) Survey, the HIV prevalence for Nigeria was 3 per cent, representing about three million people and making it the second highest HIV burdened countries in the world after South Africa.
HIV epidemic in the country maintained a steady increase from 1.8 per cent in 1991 to 3.8 percent in 1993, 4.5 per cent in 1995, 5.4 per cent in 1999 and 5.8 percent in 2001. It began a gradual reduction from 5.8 percent to 5 percent in 2003, 4.4 per cent in 2005, 4.6 percent in 2008, 4.1 percent in 2010 and 3.0 per cent in 2018.
However, the NAIS survey estimates that 1.9 million Nigerians are living with HIV. It also revealed that the prevalence rate for persons aged 15-49 is now 1.4 per cent while that of persons aged 0-14 is 0.1 percent.