Journalism student says expelled for having HIV

NIGERIA: Journalism student says expelled for having HIV


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LAGOS, 2 Jul 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - A Nigerian student said on Friday he had been booted out of a Lagos journalism school after he told the director he was infected with the virus that causes AIDS and would need to miss classes one day a month to get treatment.

Fredrick Adegboye, 45, said he planned to take the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) to court if he was not readmitted by the end of next week.

"It was clear to me they were hostile to my HIV status," he told PlusNews on Friday. "It's a quite reprehensible way to treat a human being."

Neither the director nor the registrar of the institute returned PlusNews' calls. An NIJ official said the institute would issue a statement but did not say when and declined further comment.

Widespread stigmatisation remains a major concern of people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with more than 126 million people.

According to government figures infection rates dropped to 5.0 percent of the population in 2003 from 5.8 percent a year earlier but Nigeria remains among the top five countries worldwide in terms of the size of it's HIV-infected population.

In May, one of Nigeria's leading human rights activists Femi Soyinka took a public stand against the discrimination suffered by Nigerians with AIDS, warning that their marginalistion was a major factor in the continued spread of the epidemic.

"The effort of promoting the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS has been ineffective in Nigeria. The criminalisation of HIV is always an issue," said the former professor of medicine who now runs a non-governmental organisation called Healthcare and Support.

"We are worrying because the lack of respect for human rights increases the impact of the HIV epidemic."

Adegboye, who discovered he had the HIV virus two years ago, said he was offered a place on a two-year diploma course at NIJ in May.

On 18 June, the Friday before classes began, he went to see the institute's director Lizzy Ikem to ask for permission to be excused from lectures one day every month so he could go to collect his antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs from the hospital. ARVs can improve the health and extend the lives of people living with AIDS.

He said the director "seemed to understand my situation" on the Friday but on Monday she advised the journalism student to write a letter withdrawing from the institute.

"I told her I couldn't possibly do that voluntarily and she said if at the end of the day I didn't write, she would take action," he said.

The next morning security men prevented Adegboye from stepping onto the premises, he said. After a five-hour wait by the gates the NIJ registrar Busola Eniola handed him a letter, saying the institute’s academic board had decided to cancel his admission without stating any specific reasons.

Adegboye said his admission letter clearly stated the conditions under which a student's place could be withdrawn and health grounds was not among them.

[ENDS]


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