Dr Peter Atangwho, the Chief Executive Officer, TeleMed Online Clinic, has said that stigma against People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) is more traumatising than the disease itself.
Atangwho, who said this in an interview with the NAN on Wednesday in Awka, advised Nigerians to desist from discriminating against PLWHA. According to him, stigma is irrational or negative words, attitude, behaviour and judgments toward people living with or at risk of HIV.
He said that such an attitude could negatively affect the health and wellbeing of PLWHA by discouraging them from knowing their status via testing, accessing treatment or staying in care.
Atangwho said: ”These infected people go into hiding due to stigma without getting medical help and we keep losing them to HIV deaths when they do not present early for treatment.
“To beat HIV/AIDS in our country, we must beat the stigma and discrimination against PLWHA. “HIV is mainly from infected blood and body fluids like semen and vaginal fluid.
“We need to keep educating the public that one does not get HIV from hugging an infected person, standing by them, going out on a date, shaking hands or visiting them on their sickbeds.
“Having HIV does not mean you are going around having sex with everybody. You can get HIV the first time you have sex or you can be born with HIV.
“The fact that there are so many sources to learn about HIV and people still choose to be ignorant is incredibly frustrating.
“It is very sad that PLWHA still have to deal with ignorant people, who indulge in stigmatisation.”
Atangwho urged individuals in relationships and those who have sex regularly to go for an HIV test every year to know their status. He said that knowing one’s status would help to get early medical help and reduce the burden of HIV/AIDS in the country.
“Do an HIV test every year to be sure. Your partner may be positive but you won’t know.
“This will help you have a smooth relationship, enjoy sex and give birth to HIV-free children.
“The awareness will also help to fight the stigma around the disease and focus on providing care and support for those who are already living with it,” Atangwho, a general physician, said.