3rd December, 2014
Despite the massive public enlightenment, it is distressing that HIV/AIDS victims are still being stigmatised in the country. It thus, becomes imperative to deploy a stronger control measure like the anti-stigma bill which is yet to be signed into law to stem stigmatisation of victims in Nigeria.
Stigmatisation of AIDS victims has been an uncontrollable phenomenon in this part of the world. Hence, the bill was presented to control the menace. The bill was debated extensively by both the House of Representatives and the Senate was subsequently passed but has not been signed into law.
The elimination of stigma and discrimination it is believed would stem AIDS epidemic by 2030 and facilitate HIV prevention, swift response to treatment, care, and support services by victims without being stigmatised. According to the UNAIDS Country Director for Nigeria and UNAIDS Focal Point for ECOWAS, Dr. Bilali Camara, signing of the anti-stigma bill into law will mark a landmark in the efforts to end the AIDS epidemic.
Since the National Assembly passed the bill, stakeholders have been anticipating the signing it into law by President Goodluck Jonathan. But this has been stalled. Given past experience, there are quite a number of bills that scaled through readings in the National Assembly but did not to see the light of the day. The anti-stigma bill should not fall into this category due to its importance.
Stakeholders involved in the fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS in a protest Tuesday demanded that President Jonathan should sign the anti-stigma bill into law without delay. This bill is quite instrumental to achieving the much-talked about 90-90-90 treatment targets- meant to ensure, by 2020, 90 percent of people living with HIV know their status, 90 percent who are HIV positive are placed on treatment, and 90 per cent of those on treatment manage to suppress the virus.
It is also needful for the agencies involved to enlighten the public on the provisions of the bill. Apart from the fact that it would help the victims know their rights, it would also help members of the public to know their obligations towards the victims.