In Nigeria, the word ‘HIV/AIDS’ is more dangerous than the virus. Why is this so? John Amhanesi explains
The label of word ‘HIV/AIDS’ on a person in Nigeria is customarily worse than the effect of the virus on the person. When one is down with such ailment, everyone seems to wave a farewell from afar unto his potential death rather than coming close to soothe the psychological downcast of the ill.
As of 2014 in Nigeria, the HIV prevalence rate among adults ages 15–49 was 3.17 percent. Nigeria has the second-largest number of people living with HIV and has one of the highest new infection rates in sub-Saharan Africa with an estimate of 3,200,000 and 220,000 people respectively.
HIV/AIDS in Nigeria is considered a death sentence, although the resultant death most times doesn’t come from the ailment itself, but the constant reminder of the patient’s impending doom and a vibrant withdrawal everyone gives to these HIV infected persons. Stigma goes with discrimination and it’s an aspect of it. Stigma and Discrimination are major obstacles to effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care, globally. Stigma and Discrimination in the context of HIV/AID is unique when compared to other infectious and communicable diseases. It tends to create a “hidden epidemic” of the disease based on socially-shared ignorance, fear, misinformation, and denial. denial. This is particularly more intense in Nigeria, where a combination of weak health systems is entangled with poor legal and ethical framework.
Suggestions to address the stigma issue in AIDS prevention include, but are not limited to:
(1) The news media, home videos, radio jingles etc should be used to produce de-stigmatization programs in schools, hospitals, religious centers.
(2) The introduction of AIDS education can be integrated into the curriculum of teaching in the country from primary to university.
(3) Empowerment of the stigmatized group like the PLWHAs and the commercial sex workers as well as their involvement in the design and implementation of prevention programs in the country.
(4) Health education campaigns should integrate a change from fear to caring for Persons Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) as this is particularly important for the health care personnel.
(5) More prevention activities should be situated in rural and remote areas than in urban locations, as it is currently in Nigeria. Since 65% of the population resides in the rural area, it is most appropriate to concentrate these programs where the majority of the population resides. This translates to more emphasis on primary care.
(6) More research is needed to study the role of culture, religion and social structures and their relationship to stigmatizing attitudes in the various ethnic communities that make up the over 140 million people in Nigeria.
(7) Destigmatization should be a major component of the Abstinence, Be faithful and Condom (ABC) approach in prevention strategies.