By Ene Oshaba

The International Community of Women Living With HIV, West Africa (ICWWA) has called on the government to prioritise the integration of Inadequately Served Population (ISP) such as People With Disability (PWD’s) into the society.

Its also stressed the need for the establishment of policies and training of healthcare providers that will prioritise their special needs into existing healthcare services.

This formed the core of a zoom discussion at a national dialogue meeting with policy makers and duty bearers in Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone organized by ICW WA to review and strengthen Covid-19 response programme for ISP’s in West Africa.

The Dialogue tasked policy makers and duty bearers on a review and update of the anti-discriminatory and patients’ rights act and laws, stressing also the need for an active support policies for inclusion and meaningful engagement of women, youths, PWD’s and other special needs citizens in all decision making spaces, planning and implementation.

Regional Director of ICW WA Assumpta Reginald Ukam, said it was paramount for the federal government to enable accessibility for PWD’s urging Nigeria to take a cue from other West African countries with deliberate and intentional strategy for disability inclusion.

Ukam, stressed the need for sign language interpreters on TV for the hearing impaired, accessible buildings and parking lots at government agencies, banks, shopping malls amongst others, saying that PWD’s deserved a more dignified life than the beggarly status the society place on them.

“There are no sign language interpreters on national TV like we see in other African countries and having that is inclusivity because everyone will be well informed. Offices, banks, shopping malls should be accessible to PWD’s because they are part of the society too,” she said.

“We should not always assume that PWD’s are beggers rather we should advocate for an enabling and inclusive environment for them else Nigeria would be left behind in growth,” she said.

Earlier, representative of the National Commission of PWD’s Nikky Akinbola, stressed the need for the protection and safety of special needs citizens, urging the importance of confidentiality of their health challenges by health workers.

“PWD’s face double jeopardy discrimination and stigmatization due to their disabilities and one or more health challenges when they rather deserve more attention and care. During covid-19 some couldn’t assess the responses and vaccines and so PWD’s living with HIV couldn’t declare their due to stigmatization.

“Policies that speaks against stigma will go a long in helping PWD-HIV access health services and ensuring their confidentiality especially at youth centers will help them open up,” she said.

Meanwhile, the representative of the Center for Disease Control in Nigeria Dr. Yahaya Disu, assured of collaboration with relevant agencies in enabling lasting solutions to health challenges of PWD’s, noting that the center develop messages to target audience for public awareness and sensitization.

The dialogue further appealed to the media to facilitate discussions on national HIV/AIDS policy documents and laws against stigma and discrimination in the country.

“Media should take these small actions with lots of Inadequately Served Population for big change by letting the world know the issues and what needs to be done,” it stressed.

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