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Nigerians Living With AIDS Press for Law Against Discrimination - 2003-10-07


John Ibekwe is a 36 year old resident of Onitsha in south-eastern Nigeria. He tested HIV positive in 1996. His 33 year old wife, Angela, tested HIV positive in 1995. The couple has a five year old daughter, Maria, who is HIV negative.

John says he lost his job as a marketing officer in a private firm because he tested HIV positive. He is now the project coordinator of Save the World Organization or SAWOR, an non-governmental organization of people living with HIV/AIDS in southeastern Nigeria.

SAWOR has over 300 registered members, including men, woman and children.

According to John, "Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria is not something that is simple because (the stigma starts)from the hospital or the laboratory where you test positive. (It's the) stigma (that) sends people to their graves so quickly and if you are not courageous or if you don't have any information on HIV and AIDS most people don't live more than two months. But if you have counseling and then you meet a doctor whois knowledgeable, I think the doctor will direct you to a support group where you can share your experience with others. But without that, the grave is the next stage.'

John says people living with HIV/AIDS need counseling and better knowledge of the disease, in addition to anti-retroviral drugs to help them live longer.

Some members of the Save the World Organization say they have lost their jobs and face discrimination for being HIV positive. John calls on the Nigerian government to pass legislation banning against HIV positive people. He says the law should be backed up by tough punishments against those who discriminate. He says it's the best way to show the government is taking the issue seriously.

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