It’s World AIDS Day. So… What now?
“The proportion of South Africans infected with HIV has increased from 10.6% in 2008 to 12.2% in 2012, according to the Human Sciences Research Council’s (HSRC) National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey that was released on Tuesday. The total number of infected South Africans now stands at 6.4-million; 1.2-million more than in 2008.”
This is an excerpt from an article on the Mail & Guardian website published in April 2014. The aforementioned survey ranks South Africa as the number one country in the world as far as new infections.
Still, judging from the narrative on social media, the fact that “Ke Dezember boss!” is more of a trending topic amongst youth than the fact that it is World AIDS day. Which is scary considering that across males and females, the 15 to 24 age group is at the greatest risk. According to the AIDS foundation of South Africa, for every one young man infected there are three young women infected.
Those facts alone are a sign that all the campaigns aimed at raising awareness and promoting prevention of infection are not exactly finding the fertile ground necessary to make an the impact. People are not yet a stage where HIV/AIDS infection is treated with the responsibility and gravity that it needs. If we were, infection rates might have gone down – as widely hoped for. With all the information on HIV/AIDS so readily available, why has there been an increase in the number of infections and not the inverse?
The recent Ebola outbreak and everyone’s reaction to it illustrates just how complacent most people seem to be with regards to HIV’s existence. In jest and genuine concern, people were so quick to take precautionary measures to prevent themselves from contracting Ebola – yet the same people would not be as vocal about condom use and getting tested in order to know their HIV status.
Even the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy seems to carry more weight than the possibility of being infected by an STI.
Are things this way because we have failed to continue the conversation?
Is it perhaps because we still fail to have frank, important conversations about it amongst ourselves? Why is having these kinds of conversations still taboo in our households? And why would we rather speak about a number of less important things in our peer groups – like what Young Thug is actually saying in “Lifestyle”?
What we need to do this World AIDS Day and every other day is continue the conversation. Not just a conversation around HIV/AIDS but a conversation about domestic abuse, alcohol abuse and other social issues. Social issues that will be more prevalent and apparent this festive season.
Today is not the only day that you should wonder about your status, nor is it the only day that you should seriously consider carrying and using condoms if you know that you are sexually active. Just as the 16 days of activism against women and children are not the only days on which we need to be active in preventing abuse against women and children.
It may be “Dezember boss” but that doesn’t mean that you should forget that HIV infection never goes on holiday.
Words by: @Kay_Tatyana
Graphics by: @KingOblivy