Mrs Nkechi Ikpeazu, the wife of Abia Governor on Wednesday called on relevant agencies to intensify efforts toward eradicating HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination in the society.
Ikpeazu made the call during the public presentation of a book entitled “Surmounting Stigmatisation in the Campaign against HIV/AIDS” in Umuahia.
The event was organised by Vicar Hope Foundation, the pet project of the governor’s wife in conjunction with The Global Initiative Against Stigma, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and Abia State Agency for Control AIDS (ABSACA).
According to her, statistics from World Health Organisation (WHO) reveals that 1.8 million people contracted HIV in 2008 and that the figure has not reduced till date.
“We cannot rest on our oars. There is need for constant education and research on the disease until there is a cure for the pandemic.
“I appeal to the state House of Assembly to pass a law that will tackle stigma and discrimination against People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA)’’.
She charged the people of Abia to endeavour to know their HIV/AIDS status and show love to people living with the virus in the state and nation at large.
In his keynote address, Dr Eme Ajike, the Executive Secretary of ABSACA, said that stigma could be involuntary and spontaneous, as well as a major barrier to effectively reversing spread of the pandemic.
Ajike said that there was need to strengthen the state’s legal framework and develop community-based education programmes on the disease to reduce stigmatisation.
“The achievement of zero discrimination through effective implementation of existing laws is the only way to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in our society by the year 2030,” he added.
In his remark, Mr Paddy Anyatonwu, the Book Reviewer, commended the author for capturing the need for a campaign against discrimination of PLWHA in the six chapter and 90-page book.
Anyatonwu said that the pandemic was eating deep into the fabrics of the society and required the concerted efforts of every member of the society to reverse the spread of the disease.
Earlier, Mr Ugochukwu Nwankwo, the Author of the book, said that studies had revealed that 25 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were living with HIV/AIDS and stigma was playing a major in increasing the figure.
Nwankwo called for commitment toward ending HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination as well as protecting the rights of people affected by HIV/AIDS.
Nigeria News Agency reports that the event featured free HIV testing and counseling.
Edited by Gregg Mmaduakolam/Maureen Atuonwu
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