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Persons with HIV protest against introduction of payment for treatment, stigmatization

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Members of Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Lagos Chapter during their Walk to Zero at Ikeja, Lagos state                                                                 PHOTO: TAYO OREDOLA

Members of Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Lagos Chapter during their Walk to Zero at Ikeja, Lagos state PHOTO: TAYO OREDOLA

The Coordinator, Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Lagos State, Mrs. Amina Ali has disclosed to The Guardian that the new Federal Government Directive for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) / Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) patients to start paying for treatment has caused the default of so many patients.

Ali lamented that this has a greater possibility to hinder the achievement of the United Nations (UN) AIDS 90,90,90 initiative by the year 2020.

According to her, as part of marking this year’s World AIDS Day, NEPWHAN in collaboration with other pressure groups like Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAN) and The Network Forum of Lagos State on HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis and Malaria among others are walking to zero to let the general public know there are healthy people living with the HIV/AIDS, therefore the need to stop stigmatization.

The walk, which started from Obafemi Awolowo road to the Government House at Alausa was geared towards advocating for the removal of the new treatment money or better still reduce it to the barest minimum.

Coordinator, ASWHAN, Madame Victoria Mbah stressed “the need for government to continue the free comprehensive treatment in other to achieve the 90,90,90 by 2020.

The 90,90,90, initiate entails that, “by the year 2020, 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know the status, 90 per cent of all diagnosed people will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

Mbah pleaded with the Federal Government to implement the anti stigma bill in all areas of life. On the Global Fund, Ali said “Lagos State rounded up their Global Fund activities last year, and that it went well but for few pressure groups who fell pry to issues of refunding due to wrong usage of the fund. “It was not as if the fund was mismanaged, but they were used for purposes not supported by the fund,” she added.

She explained; the Global Fund in Lagos was focused on treatment, care and support of people living with the virus.
Also present at a forum hitherto the walk was Programme Manager, Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), Lagos State, Dr. Olubunmi Asa, who revealed that, Lagos State Government is putting up a sustainable health plan for 2016/2017 and it highlights issues with people living with HIV/AIDS.

She noted, “data is needed for planning, therefore the UNAIDS is very much in support of issues of very good data to support planning as well as advocate to government what needs to be done. She further added, without the data and evidence of people living with HIV/AIDS, the fight against the scourge will be like working in the dark.

She cited the instance of UNAIDS as the organization spearheading the new global strategies on 90,90,90, and how it is based on evidence. Asa, who was the Guest speaker at the forum lamented, “another way of UNAIDS’s support is our advocacy and engagement of civil societies with people living with the virus.”

Speaking with one Eno Morris who is an HIV infected person; she regretted that women bear most of the cross when it comes to HIV/AIDS.
According to her, society sees them as less human, because they think, “we have nothing to offer and we can not work.”

This she related to the mindset and attitude that this person has HIV, therefore the need for people to change. While commending the efforts of AIDS Alliance, she appealed to the federal government to employ people living with the virus into government parastatals.

She called upon religious leaders to watch their words, because they preach HIV from the other side, and that most women are not promiscuous they seldom infect, but are rather predisposed because of their open nature.

She stressed the need to tackle Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), because people who have treated one form of STD or the other is prone to the virus.
Mbah urged private organization to include people living with HIV as brand ambassadors.


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