World AIDS Day: Reps to revisit HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act over stigmatization of patients

In commemoration of the 2023 World AIDS Day on December 1, Chairman House Committee on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria (ATM) Control, Hon. Amobi Godwin Ogah, has said the House of Representatives will revisit the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act (2014) that makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on their HIV status.

Speaking Friday in Abuja, during an awareness walk by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) at Berger roundabout, Ogah said the intervention is the least the Reps can do for the HIV community as the Act prohibits any employer, individual or organization from requiring a person to take an HIV test as a precondition for employment or access to services becomes fully operational.

He said: “We acknowledge the incredible efforts that have gone into the fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria, by the Nigerian government and her Implementing Partners and, by joining the civil society organizations present here today, declare the support and commitment of the members of the ATM committee to implement a progressive legislative agenda that Nigerians can be proud of and that is able to provide the needed operational environment towards achieving the SDG 3 goal – to end the AIDS and tuberculosis epidemic by 2030.

“On behalf of my colleagues, let me assure Nigerians, especially the community of people living with HIV/AIDS that we are fully with them and will join them to fight the harmful stigma and discrimination that hinder people living with HIV from fully realizing their potential. We will do everything within our powers to revisit the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act 2014 that makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on their HIV status, which prohibits any employer, individual or organization from requiring a person to take an HIV test as a precondition for employment or access to services becomes fully operational. This is the least we can do for this community, and we are fully committed to seeing this through.

“While acknowledging the significant progress made over the past decades, we are also not oblivious of the challenges facing the global HIV/AIDS response, including insufficient funding, dangerously high rates of 1.3 million new HIV transmissions annually, and an estimated 630,000 deaths still occurring each year, and in support of the global call for community leadership, we are determined to ensure that as a country, we also respond with a more robust local resources allocation to the HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria interventions in Nigeria.

“To honor all who have lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses, to support those who carry on the fight, and uniting people globally in battling HIV/AIDS, I will flag off this walk and urge all of us to play our part, as a community that we are.

“I acknowledge that TB is one of the leading causes of death amongst people living with HIV. Therefore, to End TB, is to End AIDS and we remain committed to the vision to fight and End the three diseases (AIDS,TB and malaria).

“I urge all stakeholders, partners and communities to lead by feeling free to approach parliament. As parliamentarians, we are representatives of the people and we are committed to amplifying the voices of the people.”

On his part, AHF Nigeria Country Program Director (CPD), Dr. Echey Ijezie, said a lot needs to be done to ensure that the menace of AIDS is ended by 2023.

“This is important because, worldwide, we are using this day to remember those who have passed and those living with HIV. It is an annual event and we are using this opportunity to plead with global leaders to place HIV high on the health agenda, to ensure that resources are available, to ensure that the fight against HIV is not yet over.  A lot of work has been done, but more work needs to be done, especially with regards to awareness and curbing stigmatization,” he said.

Observed annually on December 1, World AIDS Day gives HIV/AIDS advocates an opportunity to bring awareness to the global response, fight the harmful stigma and discrimination that hinder people living with HIV from seeking testing and treatment services.

UNI Agric Markurdi
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