Discrimination against individuals with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria

07/14/05

People living with HIV/AIDS face many forms of stigma and discrimination. This is the case in whichever country they may live, as has been shown in a number of previous research studies. In addition to experiencing unfair treatment by their families, communities, and employers, they may encounter discrimination from healthcare professionals. An article to be published on July 19 in the international open-access medical journal PLoS Medicine shows that such discrimination does indeed occur.

Vincent Iacopino and colleagues from the organization Physicians for Human Rights, in collaboration with researchers from the The Policy Project and the Center for the Right to Health (both in Nigeria) investigated the problem of discrimination by health personnel in Nigeria. With a population of roughly 130 million, Nigeria is home to one in eleven of the 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

Trained interviewers conducted a survey of 1021 Nigerian healthcare professionals: 324 physicians, 541 nurses, and 133 midwives. Many of the survey's results are worrying. Nine percent of professionals reported refusing to care for a patient with HIV/AIDS, and 9% said they had refused such a patient admission to a hospital. Forty percent believed a person's HIV status could be determined by their appearance. Twenty percent agreed that many with HIV/AIDS had behaved immorally and deserved their infection. Eight percent felt that treating someone with HIV/AIDS was a waste of resources.

In the study, inadequate education about HIV/AIDS and a lack of protective and treatment materials appeared to favor discriminatory practices and attitudes. The authors note that the healthcare system in Nigeria is under-funded and suffers from fundamental problems, including material scarcity and inadequacies in infrastructure, both of which may contribute to discriminatory behavior. They call for targeted education of healthcare professionals and provision of adequate resources to healthcare facilities, and for the introduction and enforcement of anti-discrimination policies.

The research article is accompanied by two Perspective articles. In the first one, Gobopamang Letamo (of the United Nations Population Fund in Botswana) argues that the implications of the present study, in addition to his own studies, is that "there is a dire need to strengthen the information, education, and communication component of HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in order to dispel misconceptions that people hold". The second one, by Solomon Benatar of Capetown University, argues that we need to consider this study "within the broader context of the perverse cultural attitudes that drive the global political economy... and sustain poverty." He argues that "such cultural attitudes and practices that undermine health globally may in fact have a more widely corrosive effect on human rights and practices than anything Nigerians do."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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