A coalition of women under the aegis of International Community of Women Living with HIV (West Africa) on Tuesday protested against some policies of the Federal Government. They called on the Federal Government to, among others, reduce the age of consent for HIV/AIDS testing, counselling and treatment in order to enable girls below the age of 18 get access to HIV/AIDS services.
The women displayed placards with inscriptions like ‘Enough of arbitrary arrest and molestation of women by Nigeria police,’ ‘Invest in women and adolescent girls,’ ‘Expand contraceptive choice’ and ‘Women’s health matters.”
During the protest which commenced from Unity Fountain and ended on the National Assembly premises, the Community Mobilisation Officer of ICWWA, Benedette Faruna, said the rally was to commemorate the 2019 World Population Day.
She warned the Federal Government to remove the use of fees for HIV/AIDS services or risk another national crisis. Faruna lamented the government’s failure to fulfill its promises to implement the numerous treaties, declarations and commitments made at various conferences targeted at an improved health outcome in the country.
She added that the number of women and children dying during child birth was increasing due to inadequate and poor health facilities. “We are urging and appealing to the Federal Government to accelerate all the promises they have made from different conferences, declarations and treaties; one of such is the commitment to give 15 per cent of Nigeria’s budget to health which up till now has not been implemented.
“These children on HIV drugs are not feeling the effects of their drugs because some of them don’t get the early infant diagnosis that they should run before a certain age. While some have the opportunity to run the test at facilities, it takes months for the results to come out and by the time they place the children on drugs, so many things would have gone wrong.
“We are advocating the reduction in the age of consent for HIV and AIDS services in policies guiding treatment, adherence to HIV and sexual reproductive health rights which carries the age of 18.
“Our girls are sexually active before the age of 18 and because they cannot go to the facility to ask health providers questions, they meet quacks and get the wrong information.
“We are appealing to the government to remove user fees from facilities so that people living with HIV/AIDS can go to hospitals and get their drugs because if they can’t access their drugs due to user fees, they will become defaulters. The drugs might eventually not work on them and that will become another issue for the Nigerian government to handle.”
Faruna further appealed to the government to respect the rights of women, especially those living in Abuja and environs, by cautioning the police to refrain from the arbitrary arrest, violation and sexual abuse of women.
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