THEME: ONE BIG FIGHT FOR HEALTH AND RIGHT OF PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV
The Indomitable Youths Organization (IYO) marked the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial 2021 with a round table discussion. The large crowd activity that entails Stakeholders, CSOs and other Non State Actors coming together was not done due to the COVID-19 restriction. No doubt that that the COVID-19 has also affected a lot of activities directly and indirectly that fuels the spread of HIV.
During the discussion, the following were noted with respect to HIV response:
- It has been observed that information and activities that has to do with HIV awareness and sensitization has dropped drastically to a near zero level. This has created the impression among some persons that the impact of HIV is not as much as it used to be.
- It has also to be observed that access to services such as free HIV testing that used to be readily available has almost become institutionalized and facility based, even the mobilization activities that used to be rampant has dropped.
- Access to commodities such as condoms has also dropped compared to how it used to be in previous years. This would affect correct and consistent use condoms amongst other related behaviours.
- The age of sexual debut has dropped, children have unrestricted access to materials from social media and other internet sites, the value parents place on morals have been affected and this is affecting risky behaviours that young people indulge in.
- Cases of stigma and discrimination with respect to HIV may appear silent due to the effect of COVID-19 but it is still existent in our society within and outside the health setting. We have heard comments like, thank God it’s not HIV etc which are actually stigmatizing words.
- There is an urgent need for all authorities, private, public, CSO and all stakeholders to revamp the attention given to HIV awareness and sensitization in a sustainable manner by integrating it into all aspect of activities and services.
- More resources should be made available to render services that would make citizens have easy, unhindered nor restricted access to HIV testing services with appropriate referrals as the need aries.
- Commodities such as condoms that has a way of promoting messages that are HIV related should be made available and accessible at designated location where appropriate messages can be dispensed.
- Paying attention to moral values should be encouraged at various locations including but not restricted to schools, religious gathering, market places etc. The concept of rewarding good morals, merit and other good virtues should be adequately encouraged in the society.
- Special measures should be put in place to check issues of HIV related stigma and discrimination in various settings; available laws and policies should be reviewed to be able address emerging issues that fuel HIV spread. These include laws such as Anti-HIV Stigma & Discrimination Law, Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law etc.
With or without COVID-19, HIV is still very much in existence for now; let us stop stigma, discrimination and other related issues.
Dr. Bright Oniovokukor:
Project Director, IYO &
South South Zonal Coordinator,
Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CiSHAN)