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Making a refugee claim in Canada based on HIV status

In Canada, persons living with HIV who face stigma and discrimination amounting to persecution can make a refugee claim. Often the level of stigma and discrimination is a key issue as to whether the claim will be successful. A review of the country documents where the claimant is from may show that the conditions for persons living with HIV rise to the level of persecution to be found a Convention Refugee.

For example, the country conditions in Nigeria for persons living with HIV have been previously found to be sufficient in showing that there are high levels of stigma and discrimination for persons living with HIV.

According to UNAIDS Data 2018, it has been reported that there were 3.1 million people living with HIV in Nigeria in 2017[1]. Unfortunately, many people living with HIV in Nigeria are unaware of their status, most likely due to the limited HIV testing and counselling locations available. Additionally, antiretroviral treatment (“ART”) remains inaccessible for the vast majority of those in need. In fact, of the 38% of Nigerians who are aware of their positive HIV status, 87% are on HIV treatment. In other words, only 33% of all people living with HIV are receiving ART.[2]

There are certain groups among the general population wherein HIV is more prevalent. For instance, men who have sex with men are the sole group in Nigeria where HIV prevalence is still rising. Due to the country’s strict laws and criminalization of homosexuality, it has become more difficult for NGOs, etc., to work with and assist LGBTQ communities. Due to the fear rooted in the discovery of one’s sexual identity and/or orientation by the public and authorities (including doctors), many people choose not to seek out healthcare. As a result, these individuals become more vulnerable with access to information and testing. Stigma and ART inaccessibility are the main barriers to HIV prevention in Nigeria.

Moreover, antiretroviral drugs are difficult to access. Although Nigeria adopted a 'test and treat' policy in 2015, signifying that anyone with a positive diagnosis is eligible for treatment, this is not the practical reality for many persons living with HIV in Nigeria.[3]

Due to on-going conflict and instability throughout the past decade in Nigeria, the number of people receiving ART has decreased. Services offering HIV care have become scarcer in the midst of the conflict.[4]

In sum, ARV medications are difficult to access for various reasons. As previously mentioned, accessibility is limited due to: fear of disclosing HIV status, costs associated with reaching the medications, lack of supply, limited healthcare services amid internal conflict, etc. In order to address HIV prevention in Nigeria, the aforementioned issues ought to be tackled.

[1] UNAIDS ‘AIDSinfo’ [Accessed May 2019]

[3] UNAIDS ‘AIDSinfo’ [Accessed May 2019]

[4] Babayemi O Olakunde, Daniel A Adeyinka, Sabastine S Wakdok, Tolulope T Oladele, Chamberline E Ozigbu (2018) ‘Quantification of the effect of terrorism on the HIV response in Nigeria’. The Lancet, Vol 391, Issue 10127, pg 1257-125


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