Shortly before going on the Easter break, Senate passed a new law, which now makes it an offence to discriminate against those living with or affected by the HIV and AIDS in Nigeria.
If you think the new law cannot bark and bite, please, remember that part of its provisions is that offenders risk either a two-year jail term or a maximum of N1million fine on any institution or organisation, which discloses the status of an infected person.
The nation’s upper legislative chamber also approved punishment for any individual, who discloses the status of an infected person, which he or she obtains in confidence. Such individual, according to the bill, shall be liable to a fine of N.5million or a one-year jail term.
Furthermore, the new law makes it an offence for any employer, institution, body or individual to require an HIV test, as a pre-condition to an offer of employment, access to public/private services or opportunities.
It further made it an offence for any educational institution, private or public, to demand HIV/AIDS testing, as part of its routine medical testing requirements for admission or accreditation of learners.
The bill further stipulates that every person living with HIV/AIDS shall be assured of freedom from unlawful termination of his or her employment by reason of his or her status.
The Senate President said the issue of HIV/AIDS was not something that people should be ashamed of anymore “because we all know that it exists,” and urged those affected to make their status known to those concerned in order to get necessary support and assistance.