World AIDS Day is an international observance on December 1. People around the world unite to show support for people living with HIV and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. The theme for 2020 is Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact.
The desire to end HIV remains an admirable goal in the hearts of all those committed to ensuring it happens. The fight, our fight, continues with tremendous challenges and valuable advancement in medicine. However, there is work to be done as it relates to the social conscience of society and individuals. Attitudes, deeply rooted, manifest themselves in interactions amongst persons living with HIV, and their radius of significant others, inclusive of care providers and administrators. HIV-infected individuals live in a dynamic, discriminative reality. I know some may wish to disagree, but it is a twenty-four by seven lived reality for many afflicted by this virus. I must express gratitude for the victories achieved over the years. We have come a very long way from the things I have witnessed in earlier days, like the isolation and inhumane treatment applied to those infected by those to whom they were looking to for some comfort.
HIV ignorance persists
Acts of ignorance were facilitated by the fear of this deadly new and unknown ‘disease’, considered a punishment from God Almighty for promiscuous lifestyles. What is your view of a person living with HIV, truthfully? Perhaps many today might be reflecting. Humbly, I am requesting that you remember to ask yourself: ‘what can I do to achieve our national goals for HIV quality treatment, care and prevention? How can I get involved in this struggle to enhance the lives and living conditions of those infected or affected by HIV? What can I do to prevent the spread—new infections of a virus which remains burdened by society’s barriers that have now made it even more taboo to even speak of it as they do, for example, any form of cancer? Do you understand me? Why is there such a dark shadow, a probing, stifled internal expression that leads one, inclusive of those in authority to not even speak of HIV as they do other chronic but manageable infections?’
The greatest challenges to quality HIV treatment, care and prevention are how we think and who influences how we feel, as our thoughts will always reflect in our behaviour, even in silence or compliance to a particular agency, institution or groups’ norms. Over the years, I have seen the use of celebrities in an attempt to change behaviour, and yes, I have seen persons, perhaps just as a means to an end, comply publicly. Privately, however, their opinions remain discriminative, established on the mistaken paradigm—HIV is a punishment for a particular lifestyle.
The transformational change that is required to ensure quality treatment, care and prevention is not behaviour modification, but behaviour change that is the end product of internalisation of information and behaviours by the recipients and observers of same and results in beliefs that are agreed upon and acted upon in both private and public. Do you understand? What would you do, beginning today, to make a significant difference in the reality of living with HIV, just as you and I are now living with COVID-19?
Cultivate hope and develop purpose
To the people living with HIV: cultivate hope, develop purpose. Amid challenges, know that with each new day, you have been blessed and you have a goal to fulfil. Take every opportunity, with diligence, to change the mindset of persons around you, especially the children and the youth. Recognise that the problem—the seed that births the tree with its fruits of discrimination—is that of thought, the way people think. Take it upon yourself to facilitate change, become a change agent. Influence one child, one youth; they are the voices of tomorrow. However, when you influence, leave no room for misconception, where you call the right wrong and the wrong right. Principles of truth and righteousness are what would give birth to changed mindsets, changed policies, changing environment.
Then live positively as a force for change. Be part of the solution to end HIV. Never allow your status to define you. Consider Na’aman, captain of the armies of the King of Syria; he was an honourable man, and because of him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria. He was a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. Do you understand? Be blessed.
Anderson Figaro, founder Voice of One Overcomers Club, a centre for psychosocial support and learning based in Chaguanas. E-mail: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone/Fax: (868) 679-6747. Website: – thevoiceofonett.org