By Fadekemi Azeezat Sulaiman
ABUJA- Nigeria. The Nigeria senate on Thursday passed into law, a bill criminalizing HIV/AIDS discrimination in the country.
Persons living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria face constant discrimination from Institutions including Universities and employers, many of whom carry out routine tests before offering places into their courses of study or jobs in organisations.
People who are thought to be liviing with the disease are also subjected to discrimination and prejudice as the condition is widely believed to be associated with prejudice.
The Chairman senate committee on health, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa stated that the aim of the bill is to protect the human rights and dignity of people living with HIV/AIDS.
The bill states that it’s an offence for any employer, institution, body or individual to require an HIV/AIDS test as a condition to an offer of employment, access to public/private services or opportunities.
Institutions or companies who disclose the status of persons living with HIV/AIDS face the possibility of a 2 year jail term or N1 million in fines.
It also made it an offence for any educational institution, private or public, to demand HIV/AIDS testing as part of its routine medical testing requirements for admission or accreditation of learners.
The bill seeks to protect every person living HIV/AIDS by assuring them of freedom from unlawful termination of their employment because of their status.
It is hoped that the bill will encourage more people living with the condition to come forward with their diagnosis so they can seek help, hence reducing the transmission rate.
Nigeria currently has the second highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, second only to South Africa.
Various schemes have been commissioned to help tackle the epidemic and while huge progress is being made, there’s a lot to still be done.
The bill has now been passed to President Goodluck Jonathan for approval with the hope that it will be signed into law.