December just marked another year of taking stock on World Aids Day/Month. Africa’s numbers are still on the global research table. In a special report by Mail & Gaurdian newspaper, Mia Malan posed some interesting insights.
“Scientific advances mean nothing if people are too ashamed and feel too judged to seek them out” says Malan. Communities often function around what keeps them feeling safe, and this can vastly differ from a suburban suburb to township clusters. Been seen in certain ques or specialised clinics stigmatises people from getting the medicine they need to have a normal life. Long ques also means absence from work for some on a regular basis, and instead of being upfront, fear of stigmatisation makes them often use Diabetes as an excuse instead. “One in three HIV-infected people experience discrimination, such a verbal assault or physical harassment” says Malan.
“Aids is a mirror that reflects how we think about society. It exposes our prejudices and our lack of ability to embrace diversity. The Aids looking glass is tell us: although we’ve made progress, we have a long way to go towards breaking down our bias – more than 30 years after discovery of HIV. It’s not the government’s job alone to address HIV-related stigma. We should start with ourselves and our families. If we don’t, we’re standing in the way of getting 90% of people being tested, who can be treated if testing positive, to stay healthy and are unlikely to transmit the virus to others – all by 2020.”
In South Africa, where health department figures show that close to one in five adults affected, we’re all likely to know someone. Someone who is too scared to tell us. Someone who might be you or me.