That stigma, discrimination and negligence of people living with the Human Immune Deficiency Syndrome, HIV/AIDS disease in the society remain one of the major obstacles in the efforts to curb the spread and damage being caused to lives by the dreaded virus is no doubt a statement of fact.
Though AIDS is unwittingly regarded by many as a curse in the society, people living with the virus especially in Nasarawa State, for instance, have been subjected to all forms of discrimination. Even the state that ought to have accommodated the victims of the AIDS scourge tended to have been guilty of negligence as successive administrations have failed to curb the growing stigmatisation of persons living with the virus. So, it is often not surprising that the general public and even family members have taken cue from the state to stigmatise relatives living with the virus.
This ugly development, according to findings, has contributed greatly in compounding the case of those afflicted such that the prevalence rate of the disease has increased because the victims are rather coy about going public for fear of public disdain and shame. Persons living with the virus are unwilling to submit themselves for testing to ascertain their status, instead, they would rather die in silence rather than approach counseling centres for the needed professional advice.
Executive Director of the Nasarawa State AIDS Control Agency, NASACA, Dr. Zakari Umar confirmed this when he acknowledged, in an address recently, that one of the problems his agency had faced in addressing the issues of HIV/AIDS infection was the stigmatisation and discrimination shown to persons living with the virus. “This unfortunate development is so much disturbing as these persons cannot secure a job thereby threatening their livelihood”.
Friday Magazine has however, observed that the practical demonstration of love, support and care to victims of the virus as well as other vulnerable persons/groups in the state since the coming on board of the Umaru Tanko Al-Makura-led administration in 2011 has rekindled the hope of the positive persons.
The quest to effectively reach out to this group of special people through available platforms has led to continued support of activities of the Mother and Child Care Enhancement Foundation, MCCEF, a Non-Governmental Organisation,NGO, founded by the wife of the governor, Samalatu Tanko Al-Makura since 2011. The NGO, according to the state First Lady, is an initiative aimed at complementing efforts of the state government towards reviving the economic status of the common people in the state.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 5th graduation of its trainees in Lafia recently, the First Lady revealed that her NGO had positively touched the lives of many of the less-privileged people in the state especially in the areas of health, education and economic capacity building. She explained that the organisation was currently working with seven pilot Local Government Areas of the state in that direction.
According to her, it had trained 432 persons in computer appreciation, Kampala, bead, mamas bag, fashion/design and home management in 2011-2012 and another set of 365 trained in its 2012-2013 activities in the same skills among other social responsibility services to the needy.
MCCEF, through support from the World Bank, trained 40 persons living with HIV/AIDS on various in-come generating activities and graduated recently with some incentives to set up their businesses.
At the graduation ceremony of the trainees drawn from Obi and Doma Local Government Areas of the state recently, Saturday August 1, to be precise, Governor Al-Makura, in sustenance of his administration’s commitment to the wellbeing of the HIV/AIDS positive people, declared automatic employment for 10 out of the 40 of them that were trained in various skills at the MCCEF, just as he announced a cash donation of N100,000.00 naira each to the 40 beneficiaries.
“I like to commend Her Excellency, the State First Lady for this wonderful initiative. Your kind gesture is in line with this administration’s commitment to enhance the living condition of the people of the state, especially the vulnerable. To the beneficiaries, I congratulate you for taking your destiny into your hands. A lot of people today are living with HIV/AIDS but they don’t know their status, for you it is gladning to see that you have known your status and we shall continue to showcase you to not only the state but the entire world”.
For the First Lady, the gesture was born out of her desire to support the people living with the HIV/AIDS virus in the state, regretting that people infected with the disease have gone through a lot of sad experiences as a result of stigma from members of the society including their loved ones in most cases.
She further lamented that the disease was seen as a curse in some societies as people living with the virus have gone through a lot of sad experiences even from their loved ones. She posited that it was very disturbing to note that 19 million out of the 35million people living with HIV worldwide do not know their status. “This empowerment programme is a step ahead in putting your destiny in your hands and I urge you to make good use of the skills acquired here and even become employers of labour” she urged the graduating trainees during the ceremony.
The governor’s wife, who appealed to family members, friends and associates of people the victims to show them love and care at all times, equally called on the people not to stigmatise them. “To me, it is a great pleasure working with them (PLWHA). I really appreciate their determination and zeal in putting their status behind them and taking up the challenges of living a positive life”.
The demonstration of this uncommon love for the special people through empowerment initiatives by the state government especially the MCCEF is seen by stakeholders including the state AIDS Control Agency as a measure boost in making life easy for the HIV/AIDS carriers.
Executive Secretary of NASACA, Dr. Zakari Umar affirmed recently that over months, reports received by the agency and independent monitors recruited by World Bank had confirmed that the foundation has been working in line with the terms agreed upon.
“NASACA is very proud of this good work and will not only continue to patronised the services of MCCEF when the need arises but will also encourage development partners with the intention to work with NGOs to consider working with MCCEF for successful delivery of their interventions” the NASACA boss assured.
In an interview with journalists shortly after the graduation ceremony, Hauwa Abdullahi, one of the beneficiaries revealed that she had faced a lot of challenges after testing positive to the disease but expressed gratitude to Governor Al-Makura and his wife for the support, noting that the automatic employment gesture has rekindled her hope.
“Live has not been easy with me. I lose most of my friends simply because I was tested positive to HIV. I faced all forms of discrimination from people including some of my family members and at a point I regretted being alive but today our governor and his dear wife, our caring mother, has given me a sense of belonging and I pray God will reward their humanitarian gesture”.
Stakeholders averred that it is high time to stop all forms of discrimination against HIV/AIDS positive people and other vulnerable members of the society as that will go a long way in not only curbing the spread of the disease but also give those already infected a sense of belonging in the interest of humanity.

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