Senate Passes HIV/AIDS Anti Discrimination Bill

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By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja.

The Senate yesterday  passed the  bill seeking to prevent the stigmatization of , and discrimination against those living with, or affected by HIV and AIDS in Nigeria.The bill passed amongst others, prescribed punishment of either two-year jail term or a maximum of N1m fine on any institution or organisation which disclosed the status of an infected person just as   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.Also, the bill accommodates provisions which would ensure that the rights and dignity of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS is protected, as well as promote appropriate and effective ways of managing HIV in the workplace, community, institutions and other fields of human endeavours.Chairman of the Committee, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, in his presentation lamented the increasing rate of the HIV pandemic, noting that it is one of the most significant challenges to health, development and economic and social progress facing the world today.

The lawmaker also cautioned that unless proactive measure are taken to address the HIV scourge, it will continue to be a prevalent cause responsible for the rise in figure of mortality in many countries of the world

He said: “In the countries that are worst affected, including our dear country, Nigeria the impact of HIV and AIDS have eroded decades of development gains, undermined economies and destabilize societies.”

According to him, “AIDS is expected to continue to be the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in many countries and populations, including Nigeria unless proactive measures are taken in the implementation of action plans that are workable and friendly, together with advocacy programmes at all levels of society.”

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.

In his remark after the passage of the bill,  Senate President David Mark said, “HIV and AIDS is not something that people should be ashamed of anymore because we know it does exist, it is only better that we take care and look after those who are infected rather than discriminate against them.”

Meanwhile, the senate, also yesterday, approved the appointment of Mr. Emmanuel Olusanya and Alhaji Shettima Umar Gana as members of the Revenue Mobilization  and Fiscal Allocation Commission.

Mark described their confirmation and the testimony given by Senators who screened them and those who spoke on their behalf  as a clear indication that they are Nigerians who are amply qualified for the appointment.

He said,”It is one thing to be qualified for an appointment, the more important thing is that when they get there they must do what is right and ensure that our revenue allocation and even our revenue formula that needs to be reviewed are quickly reviewed so that we can have some level of equity and fairness in the issue of revenue distribution.

“As you all understand, the issue of resource control is because of the way revenue is distributed in this country. I think that these two gentlemen when they meet with the others should be able o look into the current revenue formula.” He added.

The red chamber subsequently adjourned declared a three week recess to enable members enjoy the Easter festivities with members of their families and constituents.