Well, another World Aids Day is here and I wonder how much has changed. I can only say what I have seen from the people that I meet and work with.
I know that I am giving out less positive results – it always amuses me that it is called positive because when I give a positive result, the person generally feels anything but positive. Some labs prefer to call it reactive or non-reactive but when people see that, they always ask does that mean positive or negative.
I am not sure if that is a reflection of the general population or just the small group of people that I work with.
I see that sadly, stigma still exists – people still get overlooked for promotion or even get moved “sideways” into less demanding positions at work and most often without ever being consulted on the issue. People still get isolated by their communities and even worse, by their own families.
I know that the HIV infection rate is still way, way too high in South Africa.
I know that a lot of people are still ignorant about HIV – mostly because they believe that it will never happen to them or that they are somehow invincible. Men who still refuse to use condoms, women who will still have unprotected sex because they are too afraid to say no or stand up for their rights.
I see young adults who are promiscuous and think that it is fun and a sign of popularity to have multiple sexual partners.
I see the devastation caused by the loss of a parent, care giver and breadwinner.
And sometimes I see interesting things like the gay man who is married to a woman so that his family don’t find out that he is gay (and that is another discussion on its own), who has multiple sexual partners over the years and finds out that he has HIV at age 65 and his family still have no idea about his true identity.
But I also see survivors, I see fighters and I see activists who passionately provide a voice for those who cannot speak up.
I see women who become empowered by their HIV status to do something different with their lives.
I see men who disclose their status to their community in order to try to battle the stigma. I see people who start wellness programmes in their workplaces.
I see people that live healthy, happy and fulfilled lives not only despite, but because of their HIV status.
And then, there are the people, like David Patient, who continue to inspire me in everything that they do, and in the way that I work.
This World Aids Day, make it count.
If you don’t know your status, today is the day to find out. Today is the day to make a decision to change the way you view HIV. Today is the day to change your behaviour. Today is the day to make a difference and to make it last!