How many times have you jokingly told your friends that if they were diagnosed with HIV/Aids, you wouldn’t be able to continue your friendship with them?
Do you have a family member living with the disease and feel like talking to someone about it but you can’t because of what they might think? Have you ever been scared to speak to someone about your own HIV status positive/negative? How do you deal with HIV/Aids?
These are questions I struggle with as a young South African woman. The stigma attached to Aids is one that continues today amongst us young folk. We don’t really want to talk about HIV/Aids because we don’t really care. The idea is that as long as we don’t have it, then we’re fine. It continues to be one of the most taboo subjects in society.
On the one hand, society has come to terms with the idea of living with HIV because there is treatment available. On the other hand nobody wants to contract HIV because it is still an incurable disease and is still considered a death sentence. Although we do get educated about it through school programmes, countless television shows and advertisements, the subject matter is somehow left in the back of our minds, rarely given another thought.
Unless it is negative, we usually keep our HIV status confidential. Telling people that you’ve gone for a test is also something that people are still fearful of. After all these years, how have we struggled to find a way around this fear?
In the 90’s when people still didn’t know much about the disease, people had no problem discriminating against people who were infected. There was little to no regard for the lives of those who were infected because people didn’t know enough. As knowledge about the disease was spread (no pun intended), there was more discussion about what it was and more was done to help those who were infected and affected instead of casting them out.
Later, Aids awareness campaigns flourished, research was intensified, medication became more effective in treating patients.
Even though HIV has become a manageable illness, the focus still remains more on it’s physical effects and less on what ever psychological effects it may have. If you are diagnosed with the disease and you drown yourself in dreadful thoughts, that will take it’s toll on you. The continued stigma around HIV is one of the main contributing factors of this. People have not yet become comfortable talking about it and this should not be the case.
I’m not trying to force everybody to become active campaigners in the fight against Aids but shouldn’t we be more open about it?
Why does the stigma still exist despite more awareness, widely available treatment and most importantly, knowledge about how to prevent it? Why do we only seem to care once we have to face the reality of being diagnosed?
I say it is because nobody wants to speak up!
The youth has become more and more desensitised to the subject matter surrounding HIV. We’ve become indifferent about something that affects us all. Considering the fact that there are 6.4 million people infected with the disease in South Africa alone, chances are, you know someone with the disease. But, you don’t know about their status, their life or the discomfort they face because deep down, because you don’t want to know.
I think it’s our responsibility as young people to talk about HIV/Aids. Not only as a problem but, as a reality that affects our lives. People may feel that the topic has been done to death but talking about it is the only way to kill the stigma.
Let me know what you think, follow me @LadyBandit93