HIV/AIDS patients urge Jonathan to sign anti-discrimination bill


• NLC, NEPWHAN implore attorney-general to appeal judgment on Abalaka vaccine

THE Network of People Living With Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) has called on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to appeal the November court judgment that voided the ban on Dr. Jeremiah Abalaka’s HIV vaccine claim.

  The association also wants all other defendants in the suit to appeal the judgment and ask for a stay of action on the execution of the judgment.

  National Co-ordinator of NEPWHAN, Edward Ogenyi, who addressed a press conference on the matter in Abuja Tuesday, also pleaded with President Goodluck Jonathan to sign the anti-HIV/AIDS discrimination bill into law. The bill, which had since been passed by the National Assembly, is pending on the desk of the President, awaiting assent.

  The association and its partners said: “It is no longer news that Nigeria has the second highest burden of HIV in the world with over 3.5 million Nigerians living with HIV. Exactly 10 years after the removal of user-fees for HIV treatment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005, people living with HIV today are back to paying for services. Those who are unable to pay for those services are left to face options, which include going without treatment and even seeking for traditional, spiritual and other forms of treatment for HIV.

  “It is on record that over 1.2 million Nigerians who are eligible for HIV treatment have no access to anti-retroviral drugs while several thousandswho were on anti-retroviral drugs have stopped talking their medications due to reintroduction of user-fees. As if the deteriorating HIV response in Nigeria were not enough, a Federal High Court sitting in Makurdi, Benue State, has nullified the ban on the purported HIV cure vaccine being paddled by Dr. Jeremiah Abalaka.

  “The Federal Government of Nigeria on July 20, 2000 placed a ban on the use of the purported HIV vaccine reported to have been discovered by Dr. Jeremiah Abalaka because there is a protocol followed worldwide before trials are conducted on human beings. The stages of any drug trial are from laboratory to animals, to humans. Nowhere in the world are trials started with human subjects.”

  Also speaking, the National Secretary of the association, Mr. Victor Omoshehin, said that since the HIV vaccine claim had not undergone the needed clinical trials, it could not be said to be safe for human use.

  He said: “Drugs and vaccine claims/trials are not issues to be deliberated upon and decided in court, but should be in the realm of medical ethics and scientific evidence; that the judgment by the Federal High Court in Makurdi is capable of sending gullible Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS to face extortion and eventual death; that ban or suspension on unsubstantiated HIV cure claims would not stand the test of time if government does not provide treatment for those who are living with HIV as an alternate to quacks; that Nigeria would be saved this confusion if the federal Ministry of Health takes leadership and provides clear direction.”

  The association, therefore, called on all persons living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria to avoid the use of any HIV vaccine claimed to have been discovered.

  Among the groups that attended the briefing and lent their voices to the call for appeal of the court judgment were the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Association for Family and Reproductive Health (AFRH) and the Civil Society (CiSHAN).

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