The Ondo State Government has come up with a rather ingenious way to combat HIV/AIDS within the state but I fear the worst. The governments HIV anti-stigma law prescribes a 10-year jail term, fine of N500,000 or both for any person who by whatever means transmits HIV to another person. The law also stipulates that anybody who discriminates against people living with HIV would be committing an offence and is liable to a fine of N100,000 or imprisonment of six months or both. Source: www.thisdaylive.com
First, how does the government plan to ascertain who transmitted HIV to another person and how it was transmitted; word of mouth/personal accusation? Let’s assume this was approved as the method for reporting the crime, would this be investigated? I strongly doubt that, but should they decide to how would they go about the process in the case of a sexual encounter. The whole idea is fraught with loopholes. This law would only serve to produce another source of illegitimate profit for law enforcement officer, an increased number of vindictive allegations and unlawful arrests of the less affluent.
Secondly, in a country where the average individual struggles to make an annual income of N 100,000 with some not attaining that, were does this government except people to come up with fine. It is a very ridiculous enrichment scheme, another way to oppress the already disenfranchised citizenry.
Thirdly, in a country riddled with poor medical infrastructure, high medical bills, limited diagnostic tools and a populace still firmly clutched firmly the belief that HIV is a death sentence, is this law really the best solution they could come up with. How about providing improved low cost diagnostic tools and treatment for the masses or support groups for diagnosed individuals or simply organising well structured awareness schemes and projects involving as many people as possible. Oh wait! Those solutions would actually involve spending public funds on the public, so no we cannot have that.
Finally, I am assuming that with this law we will definitely have more people getting checked and prevention rates will soar. We might even see more people openly admit to having the ailment and living life as normal, right? Emm…..No! This law does nothing to end stigmatisation if anything it further engraves it into society and shoves diagnosed individuals further into the closet.
The fear of negative social consequences of a positive HIV test result often deters people from getting tested. A study of men and women in seven cities in the US found that stigma was associated with a decreased likelihood of being tested for HIV. Individuals who are HIV+ but not tested and don’t know they are HIV+ are less likely to try to prevent transmitting HIV to others. Source: CAPS, University of California San Franciso May, 2006.
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