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Category Archives: HIV/AIDS & HUMAN RIGHTS

Mr. X Terminated On Grounds Of His Hiv Status Gets The Fruit Of His Victory

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Dear Colleagues and folks,

Recall the National Industrial Court of Nigeria’s Judgement prohibiting employers from coercing existing or prospective employees to undergo HIV testing and that dismissing employees on the basis of their perceived or actual HIV-status is unlawful and discriminatory. Recall also the court awarded monetary damages to the total sum of 4,200,000NGN (11,500USD). This followed a suit by Mr. X. who was dismissed on account of his HIV status. Lawyers Alert filed and prosecuted the matter on his behalf. The judgement can be found here.

Lawyers Alert alongside Mr. X met severally with the employers and their lawyers towards negotiating an agreed judgement sum so as to bar an appeal alongside the expected time the appeal would have been disposed of. An appeal can take several years.

Lawyers Alert is happy to announce that last week, we received an inflow for the judgement sum negotiated at 3,000,000NGN (8,400USD) on behalf of Mr. X. Mr. X. was in our office on Saturday 30th March 2019 to receive from Lawyers Alert a cheque in the total sum of 3,000,000NGN representing the entire judgement sum as paid.

Lawyers Alert acknowledges with deep appreciation Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), and everyone that contributed in one way or another towards justice for Mr. X. and the judgement which prohibits employers from coercing existing or prospective employees to undergo HIV testing and that dismissing employees on the basis of their perceived or actual HIV-status is unlawful and discriminatory.

We acknowledge Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), Enda Sante, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Nigeria, AIDS Health Foundation (AHF), National Agency for the Control of AIDS, United Nations Development Programme, International Labour Organization (ILO), Coalition of Lawyers for Human Rights (COLaHR), Network of Persons Living With HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Nigeria Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS (NINERELA+), Association of Positive youth living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (APYIN), Society of Women and Children Living With HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (SOWCHAN), Association of Women Living With HIV/AIDS (ASWHAN) in Nigeria and other Human Rights Activists.

A picture of Mr. X. collecting his cheque can be found here and a video of his experience can be found here.

Thank you.

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USER FEE CHARGE: A HINDRANCE TO HIV CONTROL IN NIGERIA

Ayomide Joshua

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Over the years, a lot have been done to exterminate or reduce the spread of HIV to the barest minimum. Many drugs have been invented to treat HIV. One drug that immediately comes to mind is the anti-retro viral (ARV). The ARV has been known to be very effective in HIV treatment as constant dosage reduces the viral load to zero. What this means is that any person living with HIV who is constantly taking the ARV will continue to enjoy sound health for as long as he keeps taking the drug. Another drug that has been found to be effective is one which injection a person takes once in a year. As the HIV positive person keeps taking this injection yearly, he keeps enjoying sound health. The injection reduces the viral load in his/her body system to zero level. However, this injection is very expensive and not very much available like the ARV.

STRATEGY FOR HIV CONTROL

Prior to the invention of the ARV, especially in the 80s and 90s, the world witnessed rapid spread of HIV infections and many people died of AIDS.  During these periods, some drugs were invented which were helpful in the treatment of HIV but they were expensive and only few people afford to pay for them. As a result, the condition of majority HIV positive persons who could not afford those drugs worsened from HIV infection to full blown AIDS, leading to their eventual death. Worried by this development, the United Nations came up with two strategies for HIV response and control.The strategies are;

  1. The ARV should be made available everywhere;
  2. The ARV should be free so that every person living with HIV should obtain the drug regularly.

No doubt, these strategies have gone a long way in helping to treat and contain the spread of HIV. A front liner in the campaign for the right and welfare of persons living with HIV/AIDS once testified: “I am a living testimony to the effectiveness of the ARV. I have been taking the ARV for over 13years and I have been enjoying sound health.”

Currently, statistics shows that 63.9 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS in the world while 3.1 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and of the 3.1 million persons, 28% of them are children.

 

ACCESS TO HIV TREATMENT AND THE USER FEE CHARGE

The strategies for HIV control has been effective in Nigeria. For instance, the ARV are very much available in our health institutions and PLWHIV are accessing the drug. However, there are many people living with HIV who are finding it difficult to obtain ARV regularly due to the fact that they are being compelled to pay user fee before they can obtain it.

“User fee” means an amount that a person living with HIV is asked to pay before accessing HIV treatment. Towards the end of December 2018, a large number of persons living with HIV trooped out with various banners and posters to protest against the user fee charge. One of them who was interviewed by a journalist said that the user fee that is imposed by public health institutions was worsening his condition of health. He said each time he went to the public health institution where he normally obtain ARV, they would ask him to pay N1, 000 and sometimes N500 before giving him the ARV. He said further that anytime he didn’t have money to pay for the treatment, they will not give him the ARV. And once there is no ARV for him to take, his condition of health would start deteriorating. While they kept demonstrating against the user fee charge, the person living with HIV appealed to the government to remove the user fee charge so that they could have access to HIV treatment and enjoy sound health.

REMOVING HINDRANCE TO HIV CONTROL

The fact is, if we are going to make any head way in our national HIV response, we must remove anything that will act as a cog in the wheel of our progress

In Nigeria, we are very good at shooting ourselves in the foot or working agent our self. We always want to make things difficult for ourselves. HIV treatment have been made available for fee, yet our public health institutions have made user free mandatory for persons living with HIV to pay before obtaining the drugs.

Whatever may be the reason for introducing the user fee, the fact is that persons living with HIV are finding it difficult to access HIV treatment. Even the little amount of N500 and/or N1,000 they are been asked to pay before accessing treatment, are amounts which persons living with HIV/AIDS find it difficult to pay.

If persons living with HIV/AIDS cannot access treatment because of the user fee, how then will we be able to achieve our goal of controlling HIV infection come 2020? Obviously the user fee charge is a hindrance to our national HIVresponse. If we are really serious about controlling the spread of HIV infection, we should not hesitate to remove the user fee charge.

WAY FORWARD

Lawyers Alert is therefore appealing to the Federal Government, the 36 States Government, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the NACA (National Agency for the Control of AIDS), the SACA (States Governments for the Control of AIDS),Ministries of Health and other relevant agencies and institutions to expedite action to remove the user fee charge so that persons living with HIV can access treatment and enjoy sound health. It is when this is done that we can hope to achieve our goal of controlling HIV infection come 2020.

 

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Employers of labour must comply with HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act

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A Civil Society Organisation in Nigeria, Lawyers Alert has insisted that employers of labour in the public and private sector must comply with the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act to protect workers who that are infected with Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The President of Lawyers Alert, Mr Rommy Mom told Daily Trust that the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act that was passed into law in Nigeria five years ago was not implemented and that his organization has dragged the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to court to demand full implementation and total adherence to the law.

He said the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act mandates the Attorney General of the Federation to ensure that work places have HIV/AIDS policies to protect workers that are HIV positive.

He said the law was passed in 2014 and that it mandates the AGF to ensure that employers of labour in public and private sector in Nigeria have the policy within three months.

Mr Rommy expressed concern that the law was not implemented five years after and that no policy in work places to protect people living with HIV.

He lamented that majority of workers that are HIV positive are facing all forms of discrimination and stigmatization in their places of work.

 

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Effect Of Rape On Women/Girls

By Yua Miriam

 

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A taxi driver on his way to the motor park was attracted to a young lady who is a newspaper vendor. He decided to stop by and purchase a newspaper, telling her that he is not in the habit of buying newspaper but for her sake he would buy. The young lady smiled and said “that’s good of you Mr”. The taxi driver asked her to give him any newspaper of her choice and she did. On the first page, the taxi driver saw A father of 46 raped his 16 year old daughter for a virginity test. He was shocked and shouted Jesus Christ! “Is this a myth or what?” the taxi driver asked. The young lady asked why he was shouting, as the news had been all over town for two weeks then.

As the driver arrived the park, he was moody and decided to explain the sad news to his colleagues, where are you getting your news from? His colleagues asked, he shook his head full of tears in his eyes and at the same time smiled in amusement. He picked up the newspaper and threw it at them and started shouting, how can a father rape his own daughter for a virginity test?  What a wicked world we are living in, he said. The 15 year old girl who was selling oranges in the park felt a tinge of pity for the taxi driver.

Globally, rape is an everyday violent occurrence affecting millions of women and girls all over the world.

According to Wikipedia, rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority, or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent.

The effect of rape varies for each individual as each individual responds differently to traumatic experiences and recovers at different rates. However with the information from survivors, we know that there are some common responses from rape and sexual violence. These effects can last many years and can take many years to show themselves.

Physical effects may be instantly obvious if the assailant had used violence during the assault, and may need immediate hospital treatment. However, it is also worthy of note to consider other physical effects, that might arise in the future such as sexually transmitted diseases or infections.

A significant number of people who have been sexually assaulted feel embarrassed or shameful about what happened. Most people find it difficult to discuss intimate issues, this makes it difficult for such people to open up about what has happened to them. In this case it is sometimes easier to talk to someone on a telephone helpline who should take things at the victim’s pace.

For many, an initial reaction to being raped is one of shock and emotional numbness. Many people initially feel calm and shut off from what happened to them. This reaction can sometimes surprise friends and family members who expect the victim to be distraught immediately after an assault. However, disassociation is a natural defence mechanism and is perfectly normal. Usually after a few days or weeks the victim may begin to have a range of other reactions like anger, shock and fear. Fear of becoming pregnant or contracting HIV/AIDS or STD. Subsequently, the victim may worry about not being able to be in an intimate or sexual relationship, but all these fears are absolutely normal and common and given time and support they can be overcome. Discussing them with a friend or counsellor will help a lot. Research on women in shelters has shown that women who experience both sexual and physical abuse from intimate partners are more likely to have had sexually transmitted diseases. In 1991, a study in a maternity hospital in Lima found that 90% of new mothers aged 12-16 had become pregnant from being raped, the majority by their father, stepfather or other close relative.

If a victim does not want to report a rape incident or doesn’t want to be attended to by their local doctor, they can visit a local Genito-urinary medicine clinic (GUM) to check for infections.

A father in Swaziland raped his 16-year-old daughter to test if she was still a virgin, a court has been told. The times of Swaziland reported on Monday 21st May, 2018 that, a man aged 46 from the Lubombo region in the east of the kingdom made a statement to a judicial officer at Siteki Magistrate Court. He said, he had argued with his daughter because he believed she had been sleeping with boys. He asked if she was still a virgin and she told him she was. The news paper reported however, that the man confessed that he did not believe his daughter, hence he suggested that he should test her virginity. He unashamedly told the judicial officer that he forcefully had sexual intercourse with his daughter as a way of “testing” her virginity’.

The taxi driver with distaste, informed his colleagues that he had lost his zeal for working on the road that day. It would be better for him to go and rest at home, he left the park and said goodbye to his colleagues.

 

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COURTESY VISIT BY THE HOPE SISTERS AGAINST HIV/AIDS, STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION INITIATIVE

On the 29th day of August, 2018, the Hope Sisters Against HIV/AIDS, Stigma and Discrimination Initiative, a Women-Led Grassroot Civic Group in Makurdi, Benue State paid a Courtesy Visit to Lawyers Alert Head Office in order to identify with the LA and strengthen the existing working relationship between both Organizations.

 

The group was led Miss. Maria Okwoli, the Executive Director, she was received by Mr. Lazarus M. Ahangba, the Programs Manager of the Head Office. In her address, Miss. Okwoli prays LA for their assistance and support to the members of their group since the partnership started a few months ago. She said the visit was necessary owing to changes within the Organization especially at the leadership level. As a key partner and stakeholder to the Organization it becomes pertinent to formally visit and intimate the Organization of the changes that had occurred within the period. She went ahead to create the indulgence of LA to continue with the support it has always given to the group even with this new leadership that they look forward to a harmonious relationship with LA going forward.

In response, Mr. Lazarus, thanked the group for their visit and expressed delight over the group commitment to course of Women Human Rights especially those of the most vulnerable which they represent. He promised LA will continue to work and partner with the group particularly in areas of mutual interests. Furthermore, he told the group that the offer to build the capacity of its members on Monitoring/Documentation of Human Rights Violations, Gender Based Violence and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights is still open and they can liaise with the appropriate officers in charge of those areas.

In addition, R.A. Hwande Esq, mentioned the efforts of LA in providing pro bono services to vulnerable women and how they can also explore same. He went ahead to give examples of past and recent incidences LA had offered pro bono to some members of their group in conflict with the law.

After this, the meeting came to an end with a vote of thanks by Miss. Okwoli. She thanked LA for finding time to host them and look forward to a better working relationship. Shortly after this, a group photograph was taken.

 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2018 in HIV/AIDS & HUMAN RIGHTS

 

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LAWYERS ALERT RELEASES DATA ON HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS WITH REGARD TO HOMOSEXUALS IN NIGERIA

The report is a compendium of reported violations of sexual minorities in Nigeria between April 2017 to March 2018, with particular focus on Men who have sex with men (MSM). The data used in this report is drawn from inputs made into the online rights violation documentation tool developed by Lawyers Alert (http://colahr.org/lawyersalert/index.php ). The findings in this report cuts across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

Key findings from the Data evidences that Men who have sex with men, MSM, suffer the highest form of violations amongst key population groups in Nigeria. Violations against MSM by State and Non-State Actors concentrated to an all high of 76% as against other groups. Reasons for this are principally embedded in the prevailing laws (especially the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Law 2013

It is also instructive to note that 95% of reported violations/cases were resolved at police stations, with less than 5% going to trial, and even at that, prosecution is not diligent. This appears to validate the often held claim that arrests are basically to harass, intimidate and extort victims with no will for proper prosecution.  It should be added that approximately 75% of victims were supported with free legal representation either by Lawyers Alert or other organizations in Nigeria.

This report builds on our earlier report  that grouped sexual minorities into one group, http://lawyersalertng.org/resources/LAWYERS%20ALERT%20FINDINGS%20ON%20SRHR%20%20%20%20VIOLATIONS%20IN%20NIGERIA.pdf

With support from the Rapid Response Fund, Lawyers Alert customised the online tool to specifically speak to MSM, as against other key populations and other varying sexual orientations. The online tool automatically analyses data along age, location, types, trends etc.

Interventions for MSM actions and possible law reforms cannot be better informed than when situated against the data evidenced in this report.  The documented  violations were verified and  legal assistance proffered. With Nigeria committed to ending HIV, especially against the background of dwindling external funding, such data are very critical for targeted interventions given limited resources.

Lawyers Alert is indebted to several persons and organizations, who referred cases to us, assisted us technically and/or financially in the course of developing and putting up the online tool. We acknowledge the Rapid Response Fund for partnering with us this on work

The full report can be viewed at http://lawyersalertng.org/resources/Data%20on%20MSM%20Rights%20Violations%20in%20%20Nigeria.pdf

 

 

 

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Increase State Resource Allocation on HIV efforts: Lawyers Alert Tells the National Assembly at the Public Hearing on 2018 Federal Budget

The Nigeria Budget Proposals, or better properly called “The 2018 Appropriation Bill”  which encapsulates what and how the federal government will spend Nigeria resources is undergoing debate at the National Parliament.  A public Hearing  held by the Joint Committees of Appropriation  of the Senate and the House of Representatives  for Citizen groups  to make inputs  in helping  parliamentarians make proper resource allocations.
Lawyers Alert made  its presentation seeking  increased HIV funding in Nigeria given especially, the dwindling funding from the International community at the Hearing.  Our inputs follows a year of monitoring violations and related actions in this field in Nigeria, and offering free legal services to victims.

Our Ellen Onugha, Legal Officer, made the presentation of behalf of Lawyers Alert

Find Below full text of Lawyers Alert presentation.

RESPONSIVE BUDGETING: HIV AND AIDS INTERVENTIONS IN NIGERIA:  BEING A PRESENTATION OF LAWYERS ALERT NIGERIA, AT A PUBLIC HEARING OF THE 2019 BUDGET BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

PRESENTED THIS 28TH MARCH 2018

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with an estimated 175 million inhabitants. Research in 2013 showed that HIV constitutes a major public health concern in Nigeria and that the country has the second largest burden of HIV in Africa with an estimated 3.4 million people living with the virus in 2013.

Global Fund, an international financing organization that aims to attract and disburse additional resources to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, had invested a total of 24 grants in Nigeria since 2003, as part of efforts aimed at tackling the HIV threat. Indeed, as at June 2015, a total of 1.43 billion dollars had been disbursed for HIV programs.  Despite these investments however, in Nigeria, Global Fund faced a number of challenges leading to the sub-optimal grant performance shown below:

  • Poor quality health services including treatment disruptions
  • Inadequate monitoring and evaluation including poor data quality
  • Low financial absorption
  • Fraud, corruption or misuse of funds
  • Poor financial efficiency and reporting
  • Inadequate principal recipient governance and oversight.

Owing to these challenges, Global Fund reduced its funding to Nigeria, thereby making the management of HIV programs, ordinarily capital intensive, even more problematic.

In 2014, the federal allocation to health constituted just 6% of the national budget and was predicated to decline in the future. It has. Currently, state level allocations for health tend to be at an average of 3%. As at 2014, HIV intervention was underfunded by 4 billion dollars. This means there are presently minimal financial resources to make investments in health to significantly alter the course of HIV in Nigeria.

As a result of this paucity in funding the following results have been recorded:

  • Approximately 160,000 (one hundred & sixty thousand) people died from HIV and AIDS related illnesses in Nigeria in 2016.
  • About 220,000 (two hundred and twenty) new infections were recorded.
  • Out of 3,200,000 (three million, two hundred thousand) people living with HIV in 2016, ONLY 30% have access to antiretroviral therapy.
  • Only 21% of the estimated 270,000 (two hundred and seventy thousand children, ages 0-14 years) in Nigeria living with HIV have access to antiretroviral treatment.
  • Children, especially females, dropping out of school to cater to the needs of infected parents who are sick.

Simply put, the number of people living with HIV and those affected by it, is now disproportionate compared to the funds budgeted for treatment. This is a tide which must be stemmed and quickly too.

Note that an estimated 1.8 million children have been orphaned by AIDS, thereby taking a huge toll on their health, safety and wellbeing. In many instances, elderly grandparents, many of whom tend to be struggling with physical infirmities and financial challenges of their own, have to bear the responsibility for these children.

Incidentally, the National Strategic Framework, 2017-2021, aims (amongst others) at ending AIDS by achieving zero new infections and zero AIDS related deaths. This goal can only be described as utopian at the moment owing to the meager funds allocated to curbing the scourge.

2021 is just 3 years away. What successes have been recorded in tackling HIV? Do we have a tragic case here of “one step forward, two steps backwards”?

The adage “Health is wealth”, has never been more apt than it is now. Our biggest resource in Nigeria at the moment does not lie in the ground in the form of black gold, NO. It lies on the surface of the earth in the form living breathing beings, you and I, who form the bulk of the wealth of this great land. It lies in our human capital. Safeguarding the health of all Nigerians, especially from problems such as HIV, is therefore a task that the Federal Government must embark upon with all sense of urgency.

Of what use would any other achievements be if we were all too sick to benefit from them? If health, and by association, HIV and AIDS programs, are not adequately funded and managed with a view to prioritizing the well-being of citizens, all other budgets would amount to nothing because there might actually be no Nigerians left to enjoy them.

It is therefore imperative that this National Assembly pay heed to the neglect in this sector and take steps to redress the shortfall in funding. This is critical given that international support has drastically dropped as cited above. Failure to do this by the National Assembly could translate to an inability to meet the goal of the National Strategic Framework within the proposed time frame of 2017-2021.

Lawyers Alert therefore, seeks a proved and specific funding, beyond the health sector, for HIV and AIDS interventions by provision of adequate anti-retroviral therapy to enhance access for persons living with HIV. In addition, we seek adequate provision of commodities and services to promote absolutely free testing including the provision of effective mother to child transmission Medicare.

The National Assembly is so urged.

Thank you.

 
 

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