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Category Archives: SRHR

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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ADVOCACY VISIT TO THE BENUE SATE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY ON THE 23RD DAY OF AUGUST, 2018

The Head Office of Lawyers Alert in Makurdi, Benue State paid an advocacy visit to the Benue State Emergency Management Agency on the 23rd of August 2018. The 3-Person delegation was led by Mr. Lazarus M. Ahangba the Programs Manager, alongside Jerome Uneje Programs Officer and Linus Mbakaan the Administrative Officer.

Lawyers Alert Advocacy Visit to the Benue State Emergency Management Agency (BSEMA) took place on the 23rd day of August, 2018 at 10:00am. The group was led by Mr. Lazarus M. Ahangba, the Head Office Programs Manager. The group was received by the Executive Secretary of the Agency, Mr. Emmanuel Shior and his team. Mr. Lazarus Ahangba set the meeting in motion by introducing his team members and Lawyers Alert including its vision and mission. He went ahead to highlight on the Organization’ history, major achievements and current activities. He also spoke on the purpose of the visit which is to explore areas of mutual interest and partnership between the two Organizations. Furthermore, he said LA identifies BSEMA as a core stakeholder since it is saddled with the responsibility of managing Emergencies in the State. This responsibility therefore places them in direct contact with victims of disasters made up of mostly women and other vulnerable groups.

Since women and vulnerable groups happen to be LA’ core target groups, BSEMA then becomes a Key Stakeholder and State Actor to collaborate with towards meeting the needs of women and other vulnerable groups. He went ahead to intimate the Agency of LA’ intention to visit some of the Internally Displaced Persons’ Camps with the view towards building their capacity on Sexual and Reproductive Health Right (SRHR) and Gender Based Violence (GBV). In addition Jerome Uneje mentioned the monitoring and documentation of rights violations LA carries out. She also mentioned the availability of the web based tool developed by LA in 2016 which captures and analyses SRHR violations. She concluded by intimating the Agency of the intention of LA to also monitor and document SRHR violations in the camps. She further talked about LA’ pro bono services and asked the Agency to take advantage of same by sending in cases of violations.

The Executive Secretary, in his response was quite pleased with the visit and thanked LA for it. He was appreciative of the gesture and assured LA of the Agency support and Cooperation. He gave LA the go-ahead with its intended intervention in the camps on the condition that she shares her finding with the Agency before publishing. This has become necessary because some groups will visit the camps and publish damning reports without consulting the Agency. He also wanted to know if LA’ pro bono services includes development workers whose rights are abused in the course of their services. He concluded by saying that he is a feminist and any intervention regarding women and their rights is highly acceptable to him. The meeting ended with a group photograph.

In conclusion, the meeting with Benue Sate Emergency Management Agency was fruitful, timely and most appropriate. It has opened up a channel of opportunities especially for women and other vulnerable groups focus intervention. We look forward for more of such interface with key State Actors in the State.

 

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