Fifty-six Percent Of 1.6 Million Nigerians Living With HIV Are Women — ASWHAN

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.. call for inclusion of women living with HIV in social investment funds, others to alleviate suffering

The Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAN), has disclosed that out of 1.6 million people living with HIV in Nigeria, 56% are women.

The revelation was given by ASWHAN’s National Coordinator, Esther Hindi, in her speech on Friday March 8th 2024, during the International Women’s Day celebration in Asaba, the State capital.

According to her, this year´s international women’s day theme which is invest in women: Accelerate Progress is appropriate in the right direction as it focuses on investment in terms of financing HIV programmes that will better the lives and wellbeing of women and girls.

She said: “According to statistics, 1.8% of women are living with HIV while UNICEF report for 2020 showed that 20,695 children were newly infected with HIV in 2020, highlighting the urgent need for sustainable financing and financial empowerment for women.

“ASWHAN conducted needs assessment in 2023 with support from UN Women and UNAIDS to provide critical information on the challenges facing ASWHAN members as women living with HIV and AIDS, the state of comprehensive HIV and AIDS care and support services for women, and the extent of physical, emotional and socio-economic shocks they experience.

“The assessment shows that 62% of the population have no source of income/livelihood, and the ones with income are paid job with average monthly salary of N50, 000 while 11% are pensioners without any sources of support on top of that they have at list 1-3 dependant.

“Apart from the HIV burden coupled with stigma and discrimination, women living with HIV are living in poverty, we experience all forms of violence from both partners and community, we are denied access to services, economic empowerment and job opportunities due to our status.

“ASWHAN calls on women living with HIV/AIDS across all nooks and crannies to amplify their voices by joining our network to support each other.

Hindi whose speech was read by the National Secretary Association of Women Living with HIV/ADIS Delta chapter, Nkem Chukwemeka, remarked that “together we are stronger and can create a brighter future for women and girls living with HIV/AIDS”, stressing that programmes that do not give due consideration to the role of women and girls will not achieve its full potential and runs the risk of failure.

She noted that it was important to recognize the fundamental preconditions that must be in place while investing in HIV programmes for women and girls in their diversity living to play their pivotal role in HIV interventions from the National to the grass root for the communities to lead the response.

The National Coordinator said government, should invest in women as a human right Issue, “gender equality is one of the greatest human rights challenge women living with HIV experience in their daily affairs so we call on Federal and State Ministry of Justice, Human Right Commission, House of Assembly’s to ensure domestication of anti-stigma law and enforcement where need be, to protect the rights of women living with HIV and to give us an enabling safe space”.

The body called on religious leaders to “preach none discriminatory massages in our places of worship, to allow women living with HIV marry their spouses of choice, with the advancement of HIV treatment no transmission can happen and we have discordant couples that have lived for over 20 years without transmission and they have children”.

It equally called on both the federal and State governments”to include women living with HIV in social investment fund, Conditional cash transfers, include WLWH in palliative distribution and create employment opportunities for WLWH, our women have been working at the facilities as volunteer Mentor Mothers for over 15 years. Let the Ministry of Health help us employ our women”.

The group also called on donors, “to support ASWHAN with funding and technical support to help build the capacities of our members especially the support groups at the grassroots to enable them engage with their communities and to advocate for their right”.

Further more, they called on small and medium scale enterprises, “to include ASWHAN in their skills acquisition and economic empowerment programmes, to train our women on different business skills, support them with small grant to boost their businesses and support us to form cooperatives”.

Hindi, insisted that they want their women to be economically empowered saying “WLWH are suffering with no source of income and are burdened with children and other dependents to take care of”.

She noted that when women living with HIV are empowered, they would live a decent and productive lives.

Also speaking, the State Coordinator of ASWHAN, Rita Amuwah, in her welcome address, thanked the State governor, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, for his concern.

She said the women were thrilled with the topic chosen for this year’s international women’s day celebration while looking for a better celebration.

According to her, “we are proud of ourselves on our culture, values and mission to work together to create a positive impact in the state and community with a great exclusive insights and ideas together.

Various stakeholders who spoke lent their voices for the need for more support to be given to the Women Living With HIV to avoid languages not palatable when addressing issues related to them.

The State Programme Manager, ECESWS, the lead implementer partners, Mr. Henry, said the programme was apt to celebrate women.

He said the event provides a good platform to discuss the contributions of the women folk in the society, “women are the cornerstone and drivers of the society.

“A time like this provides a proper platform to give them visibility, talk about their contributions and provide them the support that they will need to continue to drive the society towards the desired goal.

“If course ASWHAN plays important role in that regard. These are people who supports the parent programme in Delta through their everyday contributions. Today, ECEWS have come to show them that support in driving their key access in today’s meeting”.

Mr. Prosper, a staff of the State and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Control Programme, his agency would do anything they can to support the welfare of women.

He assured that ASWHAN would be more visible as their interest would be more represented.

Mr. Christopher Gbenetitine, from the Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS, said the women needs financial support “because when they Re infested with HIV, there are a lot of setbacks involved as some of them experiences divorce, resulting into being single mothers.

He noted that it was time for all stakeholders to put their heads together and see how they would be supported especially bringing the issue of stigma to the nearest minimum, “for them to enjoy better life”, he stressed.

On their part, the State Agency for the control of HIV/AIDS (SACA), assured them of full support.

The State Director for Partnership and Policy, Mrs. Sifo Grace, who was represented by Mr. Uwadia Paul, said: “Anything that have to do with HIV/AIDS, SACA is there for you.

“Your wants are not out of place, your call to pay attention to your demands if taken into cognizance will go a long for you people.

“This is to rededicate our commitment to the your course, it has engaged most of the ASWHAN members, we are recommitting our commitment to ensure that we share in your overall development”.

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