World AIDS Day is marked on the 1st of December every year and the theme for this year is – My Health, My Right. It is a call to policymakers, individuals and everyone within the society to respect the rights of every citizen no matter the situation. Policymakers should strive to make stigma and discrimination a thing of the past. HIV is no longer a death sentence, it is a disease that can be successfully managed. It is important for people to know their HIV status so as to be able to meet the global goal of ending the HIV scourge by 2030.
However, stigmatization and discrimination against HIV positive people discourage individuals from going for HIV testing which in turn results in more people contracting the virus. Widespread stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV/AIDS adversely affect people’s willingness to take an HIV test. If people do not know their HIV status, the chances of those who are HIV positive transmitting the virus to their partners increase.
People living with HIV/AIDS continue to face various forms of stigmatization, discrimination, and violations of their rights and dignity, which are barriers to the scale-up access to comprehensive care, treatment, and support.
In Oyo State, about 12,700 persons across the 33 Local Government Areas are set to be tested for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) by the State Agency for the Control of Aids (OYSACA) as part of the events to commemorate the 2017 World AIDS Day. Chairperson, OYSACA, Chief Florence Ajimobi who was represented by Executive Secretary OYSACA, Mr. Obatunde Oladapo said that the test will be conducted for children in orphanages, barbers, tailors, hairdressers and NURTW members at their different state offices. She urged media practitioners to shun derogatory descriptions of people living with HIV/AIDS, noting that there was a treatment for the virus to be suppressed.
Current statistics show that 3.2 million people live with HIV in Nigeria. There is 2.9% adult HIV prevalence, 220,000 new infections, 160,000 AIDS-related deaths, 31% adults on antiretroviral treatment, 21% children on antiretroviral treatment. Nigeria has the second-largest HIV epidemic in the world and has one of the highest new infection rates in sub-Saharan Africa. This can be linked to the high level of stigmatization and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. Most Nigerians see the disease as a curse from on high or a result of sexual recklessness but this is not true.
The Nigerian government has tried to provide a safe and supportive environment for people living with HIV/AIDS through the enactment of the HIV/AIDS Anti Discrimination Act, 2014. The law stands against discrimination based on real or perceived HIV status in workplaces, communities, and institutions. As the World AIDS day 2017 approaches, it is the wish of advocates that zero stigmatization and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS can be achieved.