The late Lady Diana spearheaded the drive to de-stigmatize HIV/Aids by touching patients infected by the virus in a time when people infected and affected by the virus where treated as outcasts in society. We have made great strides since those early days of ignorance, fear, uncertainty and blatant discrimination the world over. Casting back our memory to the early nineties in South Africa where there have been many debates, controversy and wide condemnation of the role of government in fighting this pandemic.“I think the biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved. I know that I can give love for a minute, for half an hour, for a day, for a month, but I can give. I am very happy to do that, I want to do that” – Princess Diana
There was a school of thought that felt the then President Thabo Mbeki’s’ stance and position on the subject is not well understood or interpreted. It led to accusations of denial and labeling of killing the affected citizens as a result of this viewpoint. The challenge was in the translation of what was meant and not the actual position on the matter. Even our late Minister of Health was not adored by the health fraternity and the public as a result of her view on the pandemic. How can one forget the prescribed diet of beetroot and African potato by the Minister? South Africa experienced its highest number of fatalities as a result of this period of controversy.
Geneva - With 24,7 million people living with HIV and Aids, sub-Saharan Africa has 63 percent of the adults and children living with the virus worldwide, the UN agency said.
The early days of HIV in the late 1980’s and early 2000’s experienced a great deal of stigma and discrimination. Disclosure of the illness was unheard of and people died in silence out of fear of being victimised. This behaviour was even more prevalent in the rural areas of our country where people simply never spoke about the cause of death and how it affected their families. The late President Mandela openly disclosed that some of his children died as a result of HIV. The public responded with gratitude, admiration and support unreservedly. This illustrated the need to have more high profile individuals to come forward and disclose how the pandemic was affecting them and their families. Their response was aligned to their tangible and real life experiences.
Source: Sunday Times – September 17, 2017
The race to find a cure is high on the agenda for researchers, doctors and scientists across the globe. South Africa is also leading in this field of trying to find a cure.
A recent article in the Sunday Times, September 17, 2017 referenced Groote Schuur hospital busy with clinical trials with volunteers. Their team of researchers are focusing on administering anti-bodies to try and limit the risk relating to contracting the virus. It is a similar approach which was developed for polio, cancer and the Ebola virus. This is because the human body does not produce its own anti-bodies to fight the virus.
South Africa has also come a long way with regards to providing anti-retroviral medication to people living with HIV. This has ensured that the number of fatalities as a result of HIV related illnesses decreased dramatically.
Most of the interventions are either based on prevention and others are focused on healthy living. Government alone is not able to fight the pandemic on its own and requires the support, the commitment and ownership of all stakeholders in our societies. NGO’s have been instrumental in partnering with government to ensure their contribution makes a difference to the governments’ holistic plan to tackle HIV systemically.
Right to Care is a well-known NGO who introduced a HIV prevention and treatment programme in partnership with Department of Correctional Services. Kick TB & HIV’s natural birth came about the vision to build on the legacy and association with South Africa’s 2010 World Cup Soccer Event. The popularity of soccer across the globe and more specifically Africa was the obvious choice to assist with recall, awareness, relevance, resonance and acceptance of the programme.
Kick TB & HIV focused on educating the participants about the various elements which are integral to HIV/Aids and its relevance. It also included the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle to ensure a productive and more conscious lifestyle for the participants; in conjunction with the ARV’s and other medical interventions on offer. The activities had both a class room and outdoor format. Soccer balls were provided to the participants to keep the theme alive and to ensure physical activities for all, during their time of leisure.
Right to Care managed to implement as successful programme based on the feedback received from their stakeholders and the noticeable difference/change in behaviour of the participants, since the launch of the initiative. These participants came from Kwa-Zulu-Natal, Free State and Northern Cape, serving some 86 facilities; targeting 39 000 active members.
HIV does not discriminate and should not be treated as a death sentence with fear of discrimination.