NACA unveils national HIV/AIDS stigma reduction strategy

The agency has also simplified the version of Anti-discrimination Act 2014 to address stigma and discrimination in HIV/AIDS services.

A doctor draws blood from a man to check for HIV/AIDS at a mobile testing unit in Ndeeba, a suburb in Uganda's capital Kampala May 16, 2014.

The acting Director-General of NACA, Dr Kayode Ogungbemi, unveiled the two documents on Tuesday, November 16, in Abuja.

The acting director-general, represented by Dr Emmanuel Alhassan, Director Partnership Coordination and Support, said the documents were launched in collaboration with the Christian Aid International, UNAIDS and  other partners.

Ogungbemi said that HIV/AIDS response in Nigeria is still encumbered by stigma which may constitute a major threat to the gains and outstanding opportunities to end the epidemic by 2030.

He added that the yearning to expand willingness to access various HIV/AIDS services underscored the importance of the stigma reduction strategy.

"The aim of the strategy is to align the efforts of various stakeholders especially in the area of prevention intervention in addressing HIV related stigma and discrimination in their settings and to bring synergy.

"The strategy also aims at guiding all HIV/AIDS stakeholders in addressing stigma and discrimination within their ranks and based on inbuilt comparative advantages in their core functions," he said.

The Programme Director, Christian Aid Nigeria International, Ms Nanlop Ogbureke, said it supported the Association of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS (NINERELA+) to provide faith based interpretation of the Anti-discrimination Act, 2014.

She said that the signing of the Act was considered a giant stride in the National HIV response.

"Yet, there have been reactions that the act has not been communicated appropriately.

"Religious understanding of situations and interpretations are important in the life of Nigerians and it defines their behavioral dispositions.

"With this in mind, Christian Aid Nigeria International, brought together religious scholars, Muslim and Christians to provide the faith based interpretation of the act with relevant verses from the holy books," she said.

Mr Victor Omoshehin, National Coordinator, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, said that many people do not know the content, messages and spirit of the Anti-discrimination Act 2014.

"Since Nov. 28, 2014, the former President Goodluck Jonathan signed the HIV Anti- Discrimination Act into law, significant Nigerians are not aware of the law.

"In 2016, two years after the law was signed into law, many people living with HIV/AIDS suffers various forms of discrimination.

"Some of the people living with HIV/AIDS were sacked from their places of work; some rights of people living with HIV/AIDS are infringed at health facilities, while some violations occurred at matrimonial homes," he said.

He said that the documents assisted to enlighten the society about the anti-stigma law, and NEPHWAN have the mechanism and structures to ensure that the documents get to the grassroots.

Omoshehin pledged to also work with the Police, National Human Right Commission, Nigeria Bar Association and other stakeholders on the implementation of the law.

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