Nigeria is estimated to have the 3rd largest number of people living with HIV in the world after India and South Africa HIV and the stigma that it carries within a Nigerian context has been the focus of some attention on Nigerian blogs and websites in the past few weeks. For an account of the furore which involved the editor of a leading society magazine, Genevieve, see here It is surprising that in spite of many years of campaigning, very little has changed in terms of attitudes. Another recent example relates to a man who has lost his job in what must certainly count as discriminatory circumstances and finally there is this e mail, allegedly sent from a Nigerian medical doctor in the United States to an HIV positive Nigerian activist who shares the same surname.
The area of HIV/AIDS is one where the government of President Obasanjo expended much energy with some results. The president was photographed very early in his tenure with HIV positive men, women and children and the photographs were splashed on billboards across the country. Last year the then president took an HIV test to promote testing during the World AIDS Day ceremonies. Nigeria was also one of the first African countries to commit to providing universal access to treatment for people with HIV, although transmitting this pledge into reality has proved more challenging than making the initial announcement, perhaps because of problems such as these
There is a good (if slightly dated) summary on HIV in Nigeria on the avert website
In addition to stigma, some of the continuing challenges include anecdotal reports that some of the US funded PEPFAR treatment programmes are cannibalizing staff and patients from each other in a bid to meet targets; the increasing unilateral focus on abstinence only programmes driven both by US government funding policies; the vertical nature of many of the HIV programmes which mean that the underlying absence of health service infrastructure remains a problem and the over-arching issues of leadership.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead