Nigeria is the most populous African nation and is home to more people living with HIV than any other country in the world, except South Africa. Of all people living with HIV globally, 9% of them live in Nigeria.
The official HIV prevalence, according to UNAIDS in Nigeria is 3.2% among the adult population. Nigeria has an estimate of 3.4 million Nigerians living with HIV, second only after South Africa. Presently, an estimated 3, 229, 757 people are HIV positive in Nigeria. In 2013, about 220,393 new HIV infections occurred and 210,031 died from AIDS-related cases. Unprotected sex remains a key driving force for HIV spread in Nigeria.
Stigma, on the other hand, is any form of exclusion, or restriction of expression, marginalization, or prevention from access to something or services. Stigmatization is an undesirable or discrediting attribute attached to an individual’s status by the society. People who suffer from stigmatization usually possess any of physical deformity, a diseased condition such as HIV/AIDS or mental illness. Sometimes, they are associated with a negatively perceived group such as homosexuals or prostitutes.
People label such individuals as evil or abnormal and unwanted in the society. Such individuals may be denied some basic rights such as employment care and other basic amenities. Discrimination can be in form of force, contact avoidance, life threats, lynching, scapegoating, and sometimes death.
The diagnosis of People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) can be improved with anti-retroviral treatment. Yet, they still have to face condemnation and isolation from colleagues, family and community.
HIV/AIDS-related societal stigmatization is a great injustice against the people living with HIV/AIDS. Their basic life goals, aspirations, prospects that express them are compromised by the stigmatization, which may either be; public stigma, self-stigma, and label avoidance, which further complicates the daily living of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
TYPES OF STIGMATIZATION
- Personal (self-stigma): This is a self-inflicted stigmatization or self-isolation.
- Community Stigma: This occurs at places of PLWHA are resident.
- Institutional Stigma: This happens at workplaces.
AIDS stigma by association with someone who is HIV positive is classified as secondary stigma or “courtesy stigma”. This can affect family and friends of PLWHAs, as well as healthcare workers.
Stigmatization remains an obstacle to effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care in Nigeria.
HOW STIGMATIZATION AFFECTS HIV PREVALENCE/INFECTION RATES
There is a need to consistently tailored the intervention to address HIV stigmatization pandemic in Nigeria. Some of the ways stigmatization affects HIV/AIDs prevalence rate include:
- Stigma and discrimination may influence the health-seeking behaviours of people living with HIV/AIDS as regards drug availability, affordability and accessibility of treatments.
- HIV/AID stigmatization creates a “hidden epidemic” of the disease based on socially-shared ignorance, fear, misinformation, and denial. This is compounded by the weak health systems and poor legal and ethical framework in the country. Hence the people living with HIV/AIDS become vulnerable to social injustice.
HIV/AIDS STIGMATIZATION PREVENTION STRATEGIES IN THE SOCIETY
- Training of healthcare workers.
- Aggressive local language mass media awareness campaign using radio jingles and television advertorial reorientation campaign. Campaigners should aim at positively influencing the perception of the public towards people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and ending discrimination.
- De-stigmatization should be a major component of the Abstinence, Be faithful and Condom (ABC) approach in prevention strategies.
- There is a need to translate anti-stigmatization policies to increase the knowledge and understanding of HIV risk factors and increase communities potential to strengthen HIV-AIDS intervention and prevention program in Nigeria.
- There is a need for the friends, family members and community members to show support for People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in order to reduce self-stigma, depression from isolation and contact avoidance and encourage them by showing them care, acceptance and encourage their commitment to antiretroviral therapy compliance.
- Ending HIV/AIDS stigma is crucial to ending HIV/AIDS infectivity in the society and help the victims lead a fulfilled life.
- It is crucial to advocate for ending Public stigmatization either through mass demonstration by civil organizations, health education, or inclusive public discussion sessions with key communal stakeholders.
- Through fostering group identity, changing the perceived legitimacy of stigma through cognitive rehabilitation, and making strategic decisions about disclosing one’s HIV/AIDS status, we can address self-stigma.
- There is a need to encourage HIV/AIDS status disclosure among PLWHA. Disclosure of status can aid medication compliance because PLWHA will not have to hide ART drugs. Patients can enhance their mental health through a decrease in separation from family as well as friends. It may also enhance their openness and encourage communal acceptance rates for PLWHA.
- There are needs to facilitate funding to HAART clinics for better access to free antiretroviral therapy for the PLWHA in Nigerian primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities. This will also help improve the health outcomes of the PLWHA.
- There is an urgent need to eradicate ethnic HIV/AIDS inequalities towards silencing HIV-related stigma.
This article was written by Edokita Health, an online health information and medical consultation platform. Visit for free medical consultation with health professionals.