By: Adeola Oladele, Ibadan
The Oyo State Government has launched a law, making it a criminal offence to stigmatise people living with HIV/AIDS, adding that the HIV/AIDS Anti Stigma Law was enacted to protect and preserve the fundamental human rights of people affected by the disease.
Gov. Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, while launching the anti stigma law on Friday, emphasised that the feat was a landmark achievement in the history of the state, stressing that the consequences of stigmatisation and discrimination against persons living with HIV might result in low turn-out for HIV counselling and testing, loneliness, depression, low self-esteem and suicide.
The governor, represented by the state’s Commissioner for Health, Dr. Azeez Adeduntan noted that research which has shown that discrimination against people living with HIV was a contributing factor for delayed initiation of treatment of the disease and services.
“Many of our people who are HIV positive do not begin a care regimen within the first six months after diagnoses due to fear of stimatisation, discrimination and shame,” adding that it would ultimately increase the risk of morbidity and mortality among HIV infected individuals.
Earlier in her keynote address, wife of the Governor, Mrs. Florence Ajimobi expressed appreciation to state government for putting in place the anti stigma law, which is aimed at protecting the rights of people living with HIV.
She noted that the law would make it a criminal offence for anyone or institution in the state to deny an individual living with HIV/AIDS a right or due benefits as a result of his or her status.
Mrs. Ajimobi, equally used the medium to task all stakeholders to respond to the issue of HIV/AIDS and to identify with the law and give it all necessary public enlightenment for the benefits of the generality of people of the state.
In their separate goodwill messages, those who spoke at the event urged governments at various levels to create a supportive environment so that people living with HIV/AIDS would continue to work under normal conditions for as long as they are medically fit.
Highlight of the event was the unveiling of copies of the enacted package of the law.
Present at the event include the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Dr. Gbade Ojo; the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barr. Seun Abimbola; wife of the deputy governor, Mrs. Janet Adeyemo, the state’s Head of Service, Mr. Soji Eniade and some members of state’s House of Assembly.