Senate Passes HIV/AIDS Anti-discrimination Bill

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill seeking to prevent the stigmatization of and discrimination against those living with, or affected by HIV and AIDS in Nigeria.

The upper chamber also approved a punishment of either two-year jail term or a maximum of N1m fine on any institution or organization which disclosed the status of an infected person.

Any individual who discloses the status of an infected person which he or she obtains in confidence, according to the bill, shall be liable to a fine of N.5m or a one-year jail term.

The bill according to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, essentially seeks to protect the human rights and dignity of people living with HIV / AIDS.

Okowa also added that the bill was equally packaged to encourage those that were infected,  to declare their HIV status in a more friendly Nigerian community.

The senator expressed confidence that the risk of transmission will be greatly reduced if the bill was invariably signed to law

The bill made it an offence for any employer, institution, body or individual to require an HIV test as a pre condition to an offer of employment, access to public/private services or opportunities.

It further 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 further stipulates that every person living HIV / AIDS shall be assured of freedom from unlawful termination of his or her employment by reason of his or her status.

Senate President, David Mark, who presided over the session, said the issue of HIV / AIDS was not something that people should be ashamed of anymore “because we all know that it existed.”

He said those affected should make their status known to those concerned in order to get necessary support and assistance

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