An estimated 2.6 million Nigerians are living with HIV. These people have no law to protect them from losing their homes or jobs, or being mistreated by health workers, because of their status.
The need for appropriate legislation and the speedy passage of an anti-discrimination bill through Nigeria’s National Assembly became clear following CiSHAN’s stigma and discrimination project supported by the Global Fund (Round 5). In this project, CiSHAN provided its member organisations with training on reducing stigmatisation in society, using a community outreach model.
Working in partnership with the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), CiSHAN has succeeded in putting a stigma and discrimination bill before the National Assembly and is now waiting for it to be ratified. This would be an important victory in a continuing battle.
“Laws alone are not sufficient to address these issues,” says CiSHAN’s Executive Secretary Ayo Ipinmoye. “The fact that we have a rule or laws that are not being implemented is not the fault of the law but that of the people who are supposed to implement the laws.
“The onus is now on us as civil society groups to make sure these laws are given muscle and teeth. But in the situation that we are now, there is nothing that criminalises some of these crimes and that is very important. Having a law is important, as a first step.”
Accordingly, CiSHAN have not only focused on advocacy work at government level. The organisation’s Human Rights specialist Jumai Danuk has been leading community mobilisation and sensitisation efforts to ensure the general public are aware of their rights and the efforts undertaken to enshrine these in national law.