By Martins Ifijeh
As part of efforts to reduce the growing trend of discrimination and violence against women/girls living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, the Lagos State government, Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA), and Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), have called on Nigerians to give them equitable and humane care like every other citizen.
They said experiences shared by women and girls living with the virus show that many of them are still being denied their fundamental human rights, love and support needed for them to go through life.
Lending his voice during a State Dialogue on Violence against Women and Girls Living with HIV, the Commissioner for Information, Lagos State, Hon. Kehinde Bamisetan called on Lagosians to stop stigmatising them, noting that it is more destructive than physical violence due to its psychological effect.
“While we have put various laws in place to tackle issues of stigmatization, discrimination and violence against people living with HIV, we will continue to educate the citizens that HIV is no longer a deadly disease as drugs and good nutrition can help suppress its viral load.
“Just this year, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode walked against domestic violence to send a signal to everyone. Violators of these laws will be prosecuted. That is why we are telling women/girls, persons living with disabilities, and PLWHA to seek redress anytime they feel their rights are being violated,” he added.
A Board member, PATA, Mrs. Iwalola Akin-Jimoh said stakeholders must continue to raise awareness and public understanding of the scope and nature of violence been perpetuated against women and girls living with HIV in Lagos state, adding that this was also meant to galvanize public actions to prevent all forms of violence against women and girls living with HIV in Lagos state.
“Women and girls constitute one of the most vulnerable groups to HIV/AIDS particularly in a country like Nigeria where gender inequality have been identified as the driver.
“Now the issue is that if the prevalence among young women between the ages of 15 and 24 is estimated to be three times higher than among men of the same age according to the National AIDS Control Agency, NACA, and violence against women and girls manifest in various forms: some women are tested and their results are disclosed to their partner without their consent whereas when men are tested their partners are not informed. Again some women are placed on drugs without finding whether they are positive or not,” she added
The Executive Director, WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi said many Nigerian women and girls living with HIV still suffer a lot of violence, and that people must stop seeing them from the point of sympathy.
“They are healthy people. They deserve love, empowerment, ambition and all the things every other person deserves.”
While calling on the Lagos State government to give priority to pregnant women living with HIV, she called pregnant women living with the virus to communicate with their doctors on their status so that they can prevent having children with HIV. The dialogue was funded by the African Women Development Fund.