Take a minute and imagine…
Your parents warn you against a grievous beast roaming your village. Continuously they describe how the animal gallantly catches its prey. They warn you against going out at night. A year goes without anyone mentioning some of the beast’s victims. All that goes around are stories of the enemy. The closest you get to hear of the adversary’s exploits are deaths of which no one directly points to the enemy
“A dead body was found by the roadside last night, others say it was the beast, others think he fell to robbers.” Rumours go around. It becomes more confusing, as the beast has no peculiar signs when he strikes. His crawls are similar to the lion, tiger, and hyena. Stories are told of others who have even been bitten by the beast. But no one has ever admitted. Years go. Your parents are now dead. The story crosses generation. People still afraid of the beast.
To me, HIV/AIDS is more like this beast.
Popularly acclaimed as a killer, but with no seen evidence of the prey save for paper statistics. Am yet to witness, but I have never attended a funeral where attendants were told that the deceased succumbed to the virus.
Am I saying we should shame the deceased that they have died of the virus? No!
The mentality that everyone who is HIV positive is promiscuous is one factor why the battle against HIV is very futile. A veil of secrecy.
Those found positive are side-lined, ridiculed and poked at.
In the media we create a friendly environment for testing, with our actions and words we preach discrimination.
HIV/AIDS patients are still concealed in our communities. Being an opportunist disease, malaria, tuberculosis, cancer and others have put the face of HIV. And the disgrace? Everyone who has cancer or has tuberculosis is without doubt classified to be positive.
As said, that acceptance is the first step towards healing, the getting to zero theme will only be achieved if we accept that we have those living positively amongst us. And that will be possible only if we create a conducive and loving environment for them to disclose their status.
In commemorating the World Aids Days; we have a choice to plant our feet in the sand and pretend we all die of malaria, cancer, but not HIV/AIDS. It’s just a disease that starves its patients but doesn’t kill.