Those who stigmatise people with HIV in Ondo state risk a 10-year jail term and a fine of N500,000 or both following the state's implementation of the HIV Anti-stigma Law.
The Secretary to the State Government, Aderotimi Adelola, stated that stigmatisation and discrimination discourages individuals infected with and affected by HIV from accessing health and social services.
Hence, the law stipulates that anybody who discriminates against people living with disease commits an offence and is liable to fine of N100,000.00 or imprisonment of 6 months or both.
It was also registered that it has become an offence in the state to have any form of discrimination against a person infected with the virus in the case of employment, medical treatment, hiring, assignment, promotion, demotion, transfer, retirement, among others.
He also maintained that no educational institution in the state shall refuse admission, expel, discipline, segregate, deny any pupil or prospective student right to any of his rights following perceived HIV status.
Adelola, who is also the chairman, Ondo State Agency for the Control of AIDS, spoke while delivering a keynote address at a sensitisation programme to facilitate and ensure the enforcement of a law for the prevention of the spread of HIV and AIDS, elimination of discrimination and stigmatization of people living with the virus and “other matters incidental thereto or connected therewith.”
He noted that most times the rights of people living with HIV are violated, causing them to suffer both the burden of the disease and the consequential loss of other rights.
Futhermore, stigmatisation and discrimination of people living with the virus may obstruct their access to treatment and may affect their employment, housing and other rights which he said adversely affect the vulnerability of others to be infected.
Speaking on the law, the state Commissioner for Information, Kayode Akinmade said Ondo is the first state in the federation to have a law, which addresses many aspects of HIV response to law.
He said the law will help promote public awareness about causes, modes of transmission, consequences, means of prevention and control of HIV transmission, through a comprehensive education and information campaign.
In addition, he said that the law is also expected to extend to every person infected with HIV, granting full protection of his/her human rights and civil liberties.
A call was thus made to health professionals, employers and other custodian of medical records to strictly observe the confidentiality in the handling of all medical information, particularly the identity and status of people living with HIV, even as infected persons have been urged to declare their status to their spouse or sexual partners, children and parents.