The Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Professor John Idoko, Tuesday disclosed that with 3.4 million Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS, Nigeria has become the second largest country where the disease has afflicted so many people.
Idoko, who made this disclosure during a public hearing on a bill seeking an end to discrimination against HIV victims, said the ailment was more prevalent in 13 states.
Idoko, who noted that only 18 per cent of HIV positive women received prophylaxis treatment against mother-child transmission, noted that only 18 per cent of the 170 million population in the country had gone for HIV test, adding that more than 40 per cent of HIV positive persons do not know their status.
"Most successful initiatives recognise the role of legislation as the tool against stigma and discrimination," he said
He said if the bill is passed into law, it would strengthen legal protection for vulnerable groups and ensure their greater access to prevention, treatment and care.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta North), described the HIV pandemic as one of the greatest challenges to health, development, economy and social progress in the world today.
"In the countries that are worst affected, including our dear country Nigeria, the impact of HIV and AIDS have eroded decades of development goals and gains, stultifying economies and destabilising societies.
"There is no doubt that HIV is expected to continue to be a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in many countries and population, including Nigeria.
"We must begin to be proactive in the implementation of action plans that are workable and friendly and advocacy must be carried out at all levels of the society.
"HIV poses a serious obstacle to the attainment of decent work and sustainable development and its effects are concentrated among the most productive age group.
"The HIV problem has been made worse by the violation of their fundamental rights at the work place, schools, communities and the larger society on the basis of real or the perceived status, particularly through discrimination directed at persons living with or affected by HIV and AIDS," Okowa said.
While declaring the public hearing open, Senate President David Mark said stigmatisation has been the bane of adopting measures to prevent the spread of HIV because people fail to disclose their status.