HIV patients seek tribunal to handle stigmatisation cases
• Lawyers pledge pro bono services
The Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) has asked the Federal Government to imitate Kenya by establishing a special tribunal to handle cases of stigmatisation against its members.
The enactment of the HIV and AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act 2014 notwithstanding, NEPWHAN, yesterday, raised the alarm that its members were still being denied employment opportunities.
The association’s National Coordinator, Victor Olaore Omoshehin, noted yesterday at the presentation of the report of National Stigma Index Survey Among People Living with HIV/AIDS, that the proposed tribunal should be specifically mandated to adjudicate over cases relating to violations of HIV-related human rights.
“Conventional courts may not be able to give adequate attention to issues of this nature because of the processes involved in judging a case,” he stated.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary of Civil Society for HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (CiSHAN), Walter Ugwuocha, put Nigeria’s stigma index at 73 per cent, a figure he considered high.
“It is currently above 73 per cent and we in the civil society are not keeping quiet about it. That is why we have gone all the way to push the Federal Government into ensuring that we have the anti-stigma bill, which was passed. We also went ahead to disseminating it to make sure that it gets to the appropriate places. One question that we have not asked ourselves is if people with HIV/AIDS are still being gainfully employed. The truth about it is that many organisations are still denying people of jobs and employment because of their HIV status,” Ugwuocha stated.
Meanwhile, the Coalition of Lawyers on Human Rights has offered free legal services to HIV/AIDS victims to enable them seek redress when discriminated against.
Director, Partnerships Coordination, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr. Emmanuel Alhassan, who gave the hint yesterday in Abuja, noted that the development would go a long way in reducing cases of stigmatisation in Nigeria.
“The law that is being distributed today, the anti- stigmatisation law, will further give people confidence and create an enabling environment to reduce stigma, because now we know that if you discriminate in the work place, at home, or within whatever milieu, legal action is going to be taken against you.
“The good thing again is that we have a coalition of lawyers that is available to provide free services to people who have been discriminated against not only on HIV, but in other areas of HIV/AIDS. The easiest way to get that services is to get our toll free line 6222 for HIV/AIDS and related diseases.”
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