THE REALITY OF HIV/AIDS IN 2014;
For many, the reality of HIV/Aids only sinks in when someone they care about is infected with the virus. There are more than six million South Africans living with the disease, with KwaZulu-Natal continuing to have the highest HIV prevalence in the country. The HIV/AIDS pandemic knows no race or age which is why it is crucial for people who are sexually active to use protection and get tested regularly. Free condoms are available at all state hospitals, clinics and institutions of higher learning. Yes, this has been preached time and time again but because there are still new infections across the world we cannot stop giving this sermon.
The belief that one can spot someone living with the virus from a distance is misleading as people that have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses also lose weight and sometimes change in appearance as well. It is also a myth that sleeping with a virgin will prevent you from getting infected.
Having multiple partners increases your chances of contracting HIV. The same applies to married men who cheat on their wives; they place the lives of both their partners at risk because even if they use a condom it could break without them even realising it.
Despite government providing millions of people with access to antiretroviral treatment – 2.7 million people are currently receiving HIV treatment – there are some patients who do not take the medication for fear of being ridiculed. This will only make your immune system weaker. Also, while the Health Department’s medical male circumcision campaign is proving effective, it is important to note that being circumcised doesn’t mean you are not vulnerable to HIV. Circumcision lowers men’s risk of contracting HIV but does not prevent possible infection.
World Aids Day creates opportunities to fight stigmas, educate communities as well as encourage them to know their status. It also allows us to measure how far we have come in helping people access ARVs. The reality is however that the message about HIV/Aids should be constant throughout the year.
Every weekend a family buries a loved one that has died due to the disease and because it happens so often people seem to have become indifferent to it. People joke about being infected, terming the virus Z3 and Tracker and going as far as teasing those who are living with it by saying Ubambe Ilotto (the person has won the national lottery) or Ba Mo Tshwarisiye Noga (they threw a snake at him/her).
Don’t wait until you fall victim before acting, educating, protecting and supporting those infected and affected by the disease.