By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
A law to end stigmatisation and discrimination against People Living With HIV/AIDS is soon to be enacted in Akwa Ibom State.
Project Manager of the State Agency for the Control of AIDS (AKSACA), Dr Igbemi Arthur gave the hint during HIV media sensitisation meeting organised by HIV Media Advocacy Platform in collaboration with AKSACA and FHI 360 in Uyo.
Dr Arthur said the Bill which was presented to the State House of Assembly since last year for legislative touch and passage into law, has passed through second reading on the floor of the House.
It would be recalled that Akwa Ibom State HIV prevalence rate according to Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) is 5.5 percent while the national average rate is 1.4 percent.
The results further showed that the State had an estimated 183,883 persons living with the virus in 2019 and to hit 196,738 by 2025.
It further indicated that from the estimate, 13,000 new infections were expected annually except something urgently is done to reverse the upsurge.
According to the survey, stigma and stigmatisation are among the major drivers of the epidemic in the country, hence the need for the State Assembly to give accelerated passage to the Anti-stigmatisation Bill before it.
The Project Manager, who expresssed worry over the high prevalence rate of disease in the state, said the media have a role to play in changing the behaviour and attitude of people generally towards the issue of HIV/AIDS which according to him, is the basis for media involvement in the fight against AIDS in the state.
“The media can change the society for the better and for the worse. The input is the activities we run and the output is the change, and the media is one of the tools to get the change.
“People’s behaviour and attitude towards the disease like stigmatizing against persons living with HIV/AIDS, discrimination, fear and refusal to get tested for the disease, refusal to accept the result when tested positive and looking for ways to control it, refusal to go and get the drugs for fear of discrimination are all attitude that must be changed to help bring down the disease and can be done through the media.
“Behavioural change is the key to tackle it from the right angle and this would be gotten through what is passed through the media and through proper reportage, as the press know their audience better”, Dr Arthur said.
Earlier, the Chairman of the HIV Media Advocacy Platform in the State, Mrs. Imaobong Dem, who is also the Secretary of the South South Platform said the meeting was to bring media practitioners together to cultivate ideas for robust approaches at sensitising the public to end stigmatisation and discrimination against People Living with HIV in the State.
She said that survey showed that PLWHIV in the State see stigmatisation and discrimination as a huge problem they are facing in the State.
To this, Mrs Dem said, “The role of the media practitioners does not only revolve round the sensitisation of the public on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS but to help end stigmatisation and discrimination of PLWHIV in the State through their reportage.
She called on the State House of Assembly to give accelerated passage of the Anti-stigmatisation Bill, noting that it was the second time that same Bill was presented to the Assembly for passage into law.