The Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) has advocated enactment of laws that would make the stigmatisation of people living with HIV/AIDS a punishable offence in Nigeria.
The CCN’s President, Most. Rev David Onuoha, said this in his opening remarks at the opening of a three-day training on HIV self-stigma and life building skills for vulnerable communities in Nigeria on Wednesday in Abuja.
The training organised by World Council of Churches in collaboration with CCN is with the theme: “Your Mind is a Treasure. Keep it from Negative Ideas”.
Onuoha, who is also the Archbishop of Owerri Anglican Communion, urged those in this condition to assert themselves and move on with their lives as self-pity and withdrawal from active social life would not help them.
He said, “We must encourage those in this condition to assert themselves and move on with their lives as self pity and withdrawal from active social life will not do them any good.
“To inspire hope and confidence in them requires a concerted effort. In this situation, they should like King “David encourage themselves in the Lord his God” (1 Sam 30:6-8).
“They should always learn to say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
“We strongly advocate for the enactment of enabling laws that will make stigmatisation of people living with HIV/AIDS a punishable offense in Nigeria.
“There is therefore, no basis for stigmatising our brothers and sisters who live with it because they are no less human, less able and capable of fulfilling their destiny in life.
According to Onuoha, living with HIV/AIDS is not a divine sentence or judgement for sin.
“Again, the virus is not infectious nor is it transmitted through hand shake, eating together, playing together,” he said.
Onuoha said that the faith-based training was to rekindle hope of people living with the condition.
In her remarks, Gracia Ross, who represented World Council of Churches (WCC), Switzerland, said the programme was focused on addressing HIV self stigma among young people.
Ross said with the information on HIV today, the virus cannot be transmitted and when people abide by their medications, the viral load would be undetectable.
“I have lived with HIV for 23 years and I have never transmitted HIV to anyone. People are afraid because of the transmission and sometimes they are stigmatised because of this.
“Nowadays we have so much information and as such we do not understand why is there still stigmatisation in the world.
“This meeting is to discuss this and to do things together between the Christian Council of Nigeria and young people living with HIV. And to eradicate HIV self esteem,” she said
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the participants were drawn from different states of the country.