‘Stop stigmatization of HIV/AIDs patients’

Nigerians have been advised to stop stigmatization against adolescents living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDs).

This call was made at the stakeholders forum on advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescents living with HIV in Nigeria. The programme was organized by Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA) in collaboration with Ford Foundation in Ikeja Lagos.

Programme Manager, PATA, Mr. Francis Umoh, stated that people should stop stigmatization because those living with HIV are normal human beings and living with HIV should not be an issue rather to support them to go for medical treatments.

Umoh noted that HIV infection and AIDS deaths are increasing among adolescents according to report from United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) and as at 2014 the estimated number of adolescents living with HIV in Nigeria under the age of 10 to 19 was 196,000 and about 11,000 died of AIDS related cases in 2013 out of an estimated adolescent population of 38, 882,0z00. The estimated number of older adolescents under the age of 15 to 19 newly infected with HIV in 2013 was 17,000.

Umoh explained that adolescents living with HIV are growing up with limited psychosocial support, their sexuality, psychological and social needs are also unattended to. “Some have lost their parents and are being tossed amongst relatives, first move when their parents died and the second when the child’s status was discovered. Some have not been able to progress beyond secondary education because of the added financial burden they pose on relatives and care givers, thus putting them at a disadvantage in comparison to their uninfected peers,” he said.

Programme Officer Ford Foundation, Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima, said his orgnaisation is providing education to the adolescents living with HIV adding that government and all stakeholders should support the implementation of sexual education that addresses the specific needs of adolescent living with HIV. This can be done at treatment sites and by civil society organizations and network.

Mac-Ikemenjima said: “Adolescents living with HIV should represented at state and national technical working groups to ensure integration of issues affecting adolescents and young people.”

“The government should have a policy against preadmission HIV test and other forms of discriminations against adolescents and young people seeking for admission into learning institutions.”

“Government and all stakeholders should facilitate free comprehensive HIV treatment, no user fees, or payment among others for adolescents and young people in all government owned sites across Nigeria.”

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