The Coalition of Civil Society Network on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (COCSNHAN) on Wednesday stated that self-stigma is more destructive to people living with HIV/AIDS than the disease.
Concise News gathered that the first Co-chairman of the society, Ikenna Nwakammad told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that it was the major reason people living with HIV default from treatments.
Nwakamma, who called for the incorporation of mental health services in the national HIV programme, said it was imperative to rescue patients from the dangers of self-stigma.
According to him, he said “Very important, the issues of self-stigma is hardly talked about and that is even more destructive; it is the major reason people living with HIV default in their treatment.”
The society’s co-chairman explained that mental health would make people living with HIV become co-managers of their health.
Nwakamma said mental health problems among people living with HIV is the new epidemic and we must deal with it squarely.
He restated the plans of the society to set up a monitoring system that would capture and report cases of stigma and discrimination in health facilities.
He promised that any identified case would be used to send a strong warning to others.
Recalls that a person living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), who wanted to be known as Dorcas says she has been living with the virus for 13 years and is doing fine.
Concise News reports that Dorcas, who is a mother of two, says she felt like taking her own life when she received the news that she was positive. She would later be counseled and she joined a support group.
“Today, as a coordinator of a support group, I now let people know that HIV does not kill if they take their drugs the way they should.
“In fact, they can live healthier than persons without the virus.
“People should also know that testing positive to HIV is not a barrier to getting married and giving birth to children who are negative.
“I am a living witness, I tested positive before getting married, but today I am happily married with two kids who are negative.
“All you need to do is ensure that you take your drugs with strict adherence because if you don’t, due to weakness, your viral load will increase and you will end up in the hospital or even die,” she says.
According to Dorcas, the anti-discrimination law has been passed in Cross River, although her support group has yet to get any report of stigmatization.
She urges anyone who has been stigmatized to report to her so that they could take it up; that was the only way to overcome discrimination.
Another person living with HIV, Hope Meadows called on the public to see HIV as the beginning of a new life and not the end of the road.
Meadows, a mother of three, says this on Thursday in Calabar when she was visited by a team from the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Cross River State Agency for the Control of AIDS and newsmen.
She says as a person living with the virus, it is not a death sentence; all you needed to do was to stay away from things that could expose you to other diseases and from infecting others.
She states that she was tested and confirmed HIV positive with two of her children in March 2008 and had lived with the virus for 11 years.
“I tested positive to HIV in 2008 with two of my children, I cried and cried not for myself but for the children.
“The counselor who did a good job counseled me and advised me to join a support group, which I did; and was made the coordinator due to my attitude in the group.
“Although, it was not easy initially because I was beaten up and battered severally by my husband, who refused to go for a test; he finally left me and the children.
“I learnt a lot from the various workshops I attended and had to stay alive and strong for my children and others, who find themselves in a similar situation by educating and encouraging them as much as possible,” she says.
She adds that there was an anti-discrimination law in Cross River which protected persons living with the virus from stigmatization and discrimination.
“As a support group, we go to communities to educate people about this law and investigate cases of stigmatization.
“Where we discover it to be true, we report the case to SACA and the case is charged to court”, she says.
In his remark, the leader of the team from NACA, Shimsugh Chagbe, appealed to the public to treat persons living with HIV with dignity as it was constitutional and the right thing to do to end the menace of discrimination and stigmatization.
This online news medium understands that Discrimination against PLWHIV is a serious crime under the Nigerian law (Anti-Discrimination Act, 2014) as passed by the National Assembly.