The spread of the pandemic is even worsened by the fact that more people are contracting the diseases through other sources.Nigeria, one of the most populous nations in the world is not immune from the spread of HIV/AIDS diseases though the country remarkably recorded 20percent reduction of the new infections in 2012.Recent data revealed that the the country has about 3 million infections and has the highest prevalence rate of the disease after South Africa. Between 50,000 and 100,000 are said to be born annually with HIV in Nigeria.Before the signing of the anti- stigma bill, the growing stigmatization and discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS in the country was quite sad as they were ostracized by the society.There were case of employers terminating service of infected persons.There are few or no known employers who were willing to employ identified persons living with HIV/AIDS.Most of these employers always hinged on the fact that it is their prerogative to employ whoever befits their organizations.The stigmatization of the victims have continued to hang on their necks like an albatross, despite their hues and cries to the society to morally rekindle their survival and support them to live a worthy life.Stakeholders are of the opinion that the plight of people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria is further compounded by the lackadaisical attitude of the federal government to use the instrument of the law to shield the victims from stigmatization by the rest of the society.In February this year, hope of controlled stigmatization came the way of the victims of the pandemic in the country when President Goodluck Jonathan, signed a new antidiscrimination bill into law that protects the rights and dignity of people living with HIV.According to the president, the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act 2014 makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on their HIV status. He said it also prohibits any employer, individual or organization from requiring a person to take an HIV test as a precondition for employment or access to services.Victor Omoshehin, National Secretary, Network of People Living with HIV in Nigeria, said the development was good coming from the President to Nigerians living with HIV.‘’We appreciate this unprecedented development, as it will help halt all HIV-related stigma and discrimination in the country and improve the national response.”Professor John Idoko, Director-General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS, said that the signing of the anti discrimination law by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a welcome development in the fight against AIDS. He explained that it will help more Nigerians to seek testing, treatment and care services without fear of facing stigma and discrimination.”Bilali Camara, UNAIDS Country Director for Nigeria and UNAIDS Focal Point for the Economic Community of West African States said: “By signing the anti-stigma bill into law, the government of Nigeria, under the leadership of President Jonathan, has given to all Nigerians living with or affected by HIV a guarantee to access justice and to regain their human rights and dignity in society while enjoying productive lives. Zero discrimination is the only environment conducive to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.”Last December, Supervising Minister of Labour and Productivity, Alhaji Kabiru Taminu Turaki, reassured of federal government’s commitment to upholding the rights and dignity of all Nigerian workers irrespective of their HIV status.He also promised that the government will ensure an end to stigmatization and discrimination against workers infected and affected by HIV/AIDS at the launch of revised workplace policy on HIV/AIDS in Abuja.He explained that fundamental rights at work were at the heart of the revised policy drawing from the International Labour Organization (ILO) recommendation No 200.“The review of the existing National Workplace Policy became imperative in the light of new epidemiological evidence on HIV and AIDS, the International Labour Organisation Recommendation on HIV and AIDS in the World of Work (No.200) and more importantly to align it with the National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS,” he said.Apart from the federal government’s anti-discrimination law, the Lagos State government in 2007came up with a law to protect persons living with HIV and affected by AIDS.Specifically, the state government explained that the intent of the law was to prevent discrimination of any type against any person living with HIV or AIDS particularly in matter of employment.Besides in 2005, Enugu enacted a law seeking to protect PLHA from discrimination.In the same year, Rivers State fashioned a law on non- discrimination against Employees living with HIV/ AIDS.According to the state, the law protects employees living with HIV/AIDS by prohibiting employers in the state from refusing to give employment to people on the basis of their HIV status.Stakeholders in the justice and health sectors commended the Federal government for the enactment of the law, saying the development reflects that the government has a listening ears to the cries of the people living with HIV/AIDs.They also charged other state governments in the country to enact similar laws, saying the development would go a long way in ensuring that stigmatization and discrimination against the victims of HIV/AIDS are tackled headlong.A Lagos-based lawyer, Akin Fadeke said the intent of the law was good but the implementation of same must be better in order to ensure that it adds value to the lives of the victims of the pandemic.“This law must be implemented and monitored by agencies of the government. There must be a mechanism in place to ensure that stigmatization stops and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria ceases.’’
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