By Chimezie Godfrey
The Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), has celebrated those who died fighting against HIV and those living with HIV.
This, according to it, is aimed at creating more awareness as well as break down the barriers of stigma and discrimination in the country.
The occasion, which held on Friday in Abuja, tagged: “2019 Candle Light Memorial,” is a global annual event.
According to the National Coordinator, Abdulkadir Ibrahim, the event aimed at remembering their leaders, those heroes who died fighting against HIV and those who are living with HIV.
“Today we dedicated it as a day to remember our leaders, and the name of this activity is candle light memorial.
“It is also part of opportunities we use in breaking down the barriers of stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV.
“And also to remember those who died in the fight against HIV and those that are living with HIV,” he stated.
On how he was able to overcome challenges of stigma and discrimination, Ibrahim disclosed that though issues for persons living with HIV, research had made the situation easier, and such people now live longer.
“We are willing to come out to disclose that we are people living with HIV, and a lot of people live with it for over 30 years.
“Just recently the youth and adolescent symposium done in the villa, you see young people coming out to say that they are living with HIV, and we have couple of them seated here who have attended this meeting.
“So, generally we have reduced the level of stigma and discrimination in the country,” he said.
He encouraged all Nigerians to go for HIV test to know their status and also called on those living with HIV to encourage their partners to go for index testing, adding that help PLWH will achieve suppression and eventually HIV will no longer be a public threat in Nigeria.
A one minute silence was observed in honour of those living with HIV who have passed on and those who died due to the scourge.
Late Hajia Jamila Yahaya Ibrahim was given the HIV- Champion award, posthumously in remembrance of all her efforts in assisting people living with HIV and also People Living With Disabilities.
One of the persons living with HIV, Amuda Odunola who is the National Secretary, Association of Positive Youths Living With HIV/ AIDS in Nigeria, said the event is about remembering the heroes who lost their lives due to HIV/AIDS.
Odunola said the event is a good program and called for government support to make it more elaborate, and also extend the program to the states.
She disclosed that being HIV positive is not a death sentence, adding that there are so many ailment out their that are worse than HIV.
she pointed out that the challenge they face is the issue of stigma and discrimination, however, she advised against self stigma, adding that it is only self stigma that can do the worse damage in the lives of persons living with HIV.
Other who spoke during the event were the former National Coordinator, NEPWHAN, Edward Ogenyi, Co-Chair, Coalition of Civil Society Networks on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, National Consultant, WHO Nigeria, Adedu Adeniyi, and the Senior Program Officer, FHI 360/SIDHAS, Dr. Chidubem Momah.