Thereafter, the doctor counseled her and requested a HIV test. Immediately, the atmosphere became quiet and Sarah’s fear became palpable. She looked towards the Nurse and like a sheep to the slaughter, she was dumb! She tried to pull herself together but tears failed her. She knew she is HIV positive but the social implication of her status threatens her to the marrow. With tears she retorted, "Doctor, I cannot stand the shame and the rejection that my children and I will go through, my husband will obviously take another wife and my children will probably be forced out of school.” She cried and cried…
Another world HIV/AIDS day is here and I think we need to spare some thoughts for innocent women like Sarah as they battle stigmatization, discrimination, neglect and ostracism alongside a positive HIV status. I need not tell you how HIV is transmitted because you know! I need not bother you on how the virus ruins the immune system because you are aware! I need not emphasize that AIDS has no cure because you are well informed! But I must bother you on behavior change towards victims of HIV/AIDS because it is a threat to pleasant relationships, economic privileges and social order!
- It is a chronic, incurable disease like cancer, hypertension and diabetes
- It is blood borne like Hepatitis B and C virus
- Sexually transmitted like Gonorrhea, Syphilis and Herpes
- Preventable like every other diseases of public health importance
Therefore, the paranoia and disgust associated with HIV/AIDS is baseless and unfounded. Truth be told, we will be doing ourselves a great deal of favor if we change our behavior towards HIV/AIDS victims. If we stigmatize them, they won’t own up to their status, this will lead to concealment of cases and ultimately to clandestine spread of the virus. If we discriminate against them, they will be furious and this can lead to vengeful spread of the virus. Whichever way, more people will become infected, the burden of the disease multiplies and more deaths ensue.
Time will fail me to talk about rape and forced marriages, whose victims are now suffering from HIV/AIDS. The sad episode may get worse, the frustration may escalates and the hopelessness may become irretrievable if we continue to stigmatize, discriminate, neglect or worse still ostracize these innocent souls. Our behavior must change and the time to start is now!
Stop the Stigma, Don’t Discriminate, No to Neglect, Oppose Ostracism and End this social Evil.
Health and Behavioral Change Advocate