The barrier to an HIV–free generation
Since 1988, World Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (Aids) Day has been held on 1 December as a day for people to “unite in the fight against Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died” (World Aids Day Org).
Did you know that nearly 1 in every 10 South Africans are living with HIV/AIDS? Think about that for a second choma; 1 in 10 out of a population of millions are infected with HIV. Unfortunately, these numbers don’t even reflect those who are unaware that they are infected with HIV.
There is still social stigma attached to HIV, which still prevents those infected to disclose their status. Part of the stigma is a lack of knowledge of HIV; some people still don’t fully understand how it’s spread and are still unaware that anyone can be infected by it – regardless of age, gender, relationship status or sexual orientation.
The fear also means that many people still incorrectly believe that HIV and AIDS are:
- Associated with death
- Associated with sleeping around with many people
- Only transmitted through sex
How we can change this?
For over 30 years, since AIDS was first identified in 1983 choma, doctors around the world have worked tirelessly to find a cure to the disease. While we still have a long way to go, hope is in sight. With the use of Anti-Retroviral (ARV) medicine, we have been able to extend the life expectancy of those infected with HIV and lower the infection rate, including mother-to-child transmission. Even better, in 2010 doctors in America were able to treat an HIV-infected newborn baby to the point where the disease disappeared from the child. This gives us hope that one day in the future we will be able to see a HIV-free generation.
Until then choma, we need to change the way we think and talk about HIV and AIDS. The culture of fear and isolation around those infected with HIV/AIDS does not help, it only harms more. Because of this fear, people are still afraid to get tested, scared to seek treatment and afraid to be honest with their sexual partners.
The first step to getting rid of the stigma of HIV is knowing your own status. Know your status by getting tested and don’t be afraid to talk about it and don’t be scared of people who are infected. Educate your communities and help get rid of superstitions.
Being part of the change
By standing together, we prove that we are stronger and one day we will live to see an HIV-free generation.
It all begins with us choma. If you are living with HIV, know that there is treatment and information that can help you live a long and healthy life. Don’t be afraid to live your life positively. And if you’d like to disclose your status to whomever you want, be prepared for their reaction, whether good or bad. If you know someone who is living with HIV, educate yourself so that you don’t contribute to the stigma and discrimination people living with HIV face. Always use a condom whenever you engage in sex choma. If you are struggling to speak to your partner about safe sex, click here.
If you can, try and wear a red ribbon, which is a symbol of our dedication to the cause to end AIDS-related deaths and to live in an HIV-free society.
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