The Network of People living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPHWAN) has called for full enforcement of the HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act, 2014.
Mr Victor Omoshehin, the National Coordinator, NEPHWAN, made the appeal where he noted that many Nigerians were unaware of the law which “protects the fundamental human rights and dignity of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS’’ in the country.
According to him, members of the association still suffer from stigma because of inadequate awareness and non-implementation of the law.
He said that NEPHWAN had documented cases of such violations perpetrated by most employers of labour, who made HIV and AIDS screening a prerequisite for employment.
“One of the reasons why this act of stigma and discrimination is still there is as a result of low awareness about an Act prohibiting it, especially among employers of labour. Although, there is nothing wrong getting to know the health status of your potential staff. But it should not be done in a way that will hurt them for life, especially when they are HIV positive. Since the treatment is free and accessible, they should be given the opportunity to work and be productive to themselves and the society at large,” he said.
Omoshehin also advised people living with the virus on the need to accept themselves and leave above stigma.
“Most times, some of them might have passed the entire employments test but will be dropped once they are asked to go for medical screening. That is why I do tell them to disclose their status with confidence before going for such screening because once these employers know that they know their rights, they will have a rethink,” he said.
He added that the media, religious leaders, community heads and all stakeholders must provide continuous awareness of the law to put an end to discrimination in the country.
The HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Bill was signed into law in 2014 by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Act makes it illegal to discriminate against people because of their HIV status, prohibiting any employer, individual or organisation from requiring a person to take HIV test as a precondition for employment.