These are pleasant times. Gone are days when contracting HIV appeared as a death sentence.
Times are fast changing and the public attitude towards the disease is not as dreadful as before.
Thanks to enlightenment campaigns, massive promotion of HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) and Government intervention via making the cost of managing the ailment totally free.
Even though, there is still no known cure nor is there a vaccine for the prevention of HIV, significant progress has been made with regards to treatment and care. Thus, awareness and improved treatment is fast scrapping the angst and chagrin attached to HIV/AIDS.
So, as we mark the #WorldAIDSday, do know that the second strongest barrier to HIV- testing is HIV-related stigma. Second only to the Fear.
Stigmatizing people living with HIV will only come around to affect us directly or indirectly because the fear of stigmatization often leads to the infected person’s secrecy about their status, thereby putting every other person in danger.
Beyond that, stigmatizing and discriminating against people living with HIV negatively affects their psychological well being and emotional health. Their experiences stemming from this stigmatization, especially in Africa, usually leads them to develop low self esteem, self pity, self hate and negative self image.
Others go ahead to hate others too resulting to deliberately infecting unsuspecting people. It does not end there. For some infected people, they go on to experience what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention referred to as ‘Internalized stigma’ or ‘self-stigma’.
This occurs when “a person takes in the negative ideas and stereotypes about people living with HIV and start to apply them to themselves. HIV internalized stigma can lead to feelings of shame, fear of disclosure, isolation, and despair.”
Truly, nobody deserves to feel this way.
Read more on The Effects of HIV Stigma
Now to the more pressing issue…
Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world and one of the highest rates of new infection in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Global Information and Education on HIV/AIDS; in Nigeria in 2018: 1 900 000 people were living with HIV.
So, here is the Big Question:
Do you know your HIV status?
When last did you run a HIV test?
Always remember, this has nothing to do with you looking healthy or not having any health challenge. But more on how you have been exposed to situations or circumstances that put you at risk. Some of which include, but not limited to,
- the use of unsterilised sharp objects like razors, syringes, needles, clippers, etc
- getting transfused with unscreened blood
- having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with a partner whose status you do not know.
Getting yourself tested for HIV is the ONLY sure way to know your status. Not how healthy you feel or look. Not the fact that you are not sick yet. Not the fact that you are so full of life.
The reluctance to know your status will only do more harm than good in the long run. Therefore, knowing your status is a case of “the earlier, the better” as early detection can lead to early treatment, better care and hence better outcomes.
Save the world.
Know your HIV status today!
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