World Aids Day

World Aids Day

World Aids Day 1 December

We all understand the severity of HIV/AIDS. An estimated 7.1 million South Africans, or 18.9% of the population, currently live with the disease. Out of this, around 86% are aware of their status.
What does this mean? It tells us that the disease is here, it’s real and it affects people around us.

There is no cure, but that doesn’t mean there is no life after it.

The introduction of HIV/AIDS into mainstream society is no recent feat. In fact, the disease was first identified as early as the 1980’s. In days gone by the physical ailment also carried with it a stigma that still impacts its victims today. Allegations, assumptions and the feeling of helplessness made this a taboo topic. As a result, many of its victims viewed contraction as an immediate death sentence.

World Aids Day 1 December

It’s hard to understand the challenges faced by these individuals without walking a mile in their shoes. Imagine being young and full of hope. Imagine having your life planned out. Goals, dreams, ideas of a family with children. Then imagine having all these questioned. Imagine the children born into a life they didn’t choose. The parents living with the fear. The siblings faced with uncertainty. The people, their lives and the challenges they face.

Twenty years ago, the ideas surround HIV/AIDS were as far fetched as they were detrimental. People were vilified. They were often left isolated and forced to confront these challenges on their own. It wasn’t easy. And, in many ways, it still isn’t easy today.

But it’s up to us as society to not make it harder.

Even today, there are stigmas that follow the victims of HIV around. They’re not as prevalent as they once were, but it’s important that society does its part to stifle these. The life expectancy of a patient has risen from 61.2 to 67.7 years within half a decade. Modern medication has actually made massive progress, to the extent that it’s extremely rare for someone to die from HIV itself.

Deaths are normally caused by other sicknesses, such as TB, picked up due to a weakened immune system.

World Aids Day 1 December

Many patients do in fact go on to live normal, healthy lives. They live, they laugh, they work, and they play. The only difference is something that can neither be seen nor heard.
The bravery of these individuals cannot be understated.

We have a duty to treat our fellow people with compassion and empathy. People living with HIV are still people. They love, smile and cry like the rest of us. It’s often easy to overlook the emotional challenges posed by a disease in favour of its physical properties. We have come far in ensuring that these physical symptoms are completely manageable. However, it’s now up to us to help on the emotional and psychological sides.

The mental strain faced by many of these patients cannot be understated. We all feel pressure, but terminal illness can take on a life of its own. Thankfully, people are not treated with the same disdain as they were twenty years ago. Nevertheless, there is still an element of trepidation around being open about it. And we understand why. Some things are private and not meant to be broadcast. However, we should strive to foster an environment where it’s abundantly clear that talking about it is okay.

December 1st is World AIDS Day. Let us foster an environment where we can discuss the issue. If you, or someone you know is either suffering from the disease or suspects they are, encourage them to seek professional counselling. HIV can be prevented, but it can’t be cured. It’s up to us to ensure that the beginning of this dreaded journey is not the end.