Owing to the increasing numbers of new infections of HIV/AIDS among uniformed men and women, especially in the Nigerian Police Force, the National Assembly yesterday advocated for a policy where police officers would be granted compassionate casual leave to spend at least two or three days with their spouses in a month.
The Chairman, House Committee on Health, Ndudi Elumelu, stated this at the official launch of Police Action Committee on AIDS (PACA) strategic plan for 2014-2016 in Abuja.
According to him, the plan will help promote fidelity, reduce promiscuity and reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS among officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force.
Elumelu stated that "It is common knowledge that an average police officer is an itinerant officer. The sensitive nature of their job does not permit them to remain in a particular location for a long period of time. Consequently, the possibility of being separated from their spouse is constantly high. It is therefore important for police officers to be cautious of the scourge of HIV/AIDS and also bear in mind that there is no cure for HIV/AIDS at the moment. “Therefore, officers should imbibe the culture of abstinence. Officers should be ready to keep to a single partner. Where it is extremely impossible to comply, officers must be ready to practice safe sex by using condoms.
"Furthermore, I appeal to the Inspector General of Police to formulate a policy whereby officers would be granted compassionate leave to spend at least two or three days casual leave with their spouse in a month. This policy, if formulated and implemented would go a long way to promoted fidelity among officers and their spouse and thereby reduce promiscuity and all the vices associated with the spread of HIV/AIDS."
Reminiscing on the 2008 incident when officers were sacked for their HIV status, Elumelu observed that "the event of 2008 is still fresh in our memory.
In 2008, the Police Force dismissed 24 police trainees over their HIV positive status. All efforts to reverse the dismissal proved abortive as the police authorities claimed that the victims were mere trainees yet to be absorbed into the Police Force.
"Governments and non governmental organisations should engage in providing universal access to anti-retroviral treatment for persons living with HIV/AIDS because studies have shown that access to anti-retroviral treatment lessen the fear of stigma amongst HIV positive persons."
Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, stressed that the fight against HIV in the police started since 1992 with the birth of the Joint Armed Forces and Police AIDS Committee, which according to him, was solely funded by the Nigeria Police.
Represented by the deputy Inspector General of (DIG), Suleiman Fakai, the IG maintained that "the last strategic plan was developed in 2010 to cover the period 2011-2013. Today, we are here to witness the launch of strategic plan 2014-2016.
"This plan is a guide to the police response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in line with the National Strategic Plan. This approach is still built on the foundation of the relationship and partnership of the Nigeria Police Medical Services and its stakeholders who have collaborated with the committee for several years,” he added.