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On this day 1st December of every year, the issue of HIV/AIDS (HumanImmunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is brought to the fore via various media. The theme for this year’s world celebration is “Getting to Zero”. Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.

Naturally, the first step to fighting any battle is getting ready. Unfortunately, in the fight against HIV/AIDS, many people are not ready. Many young people when asked whether they know their HIV status quickly reply that they have not done anything so they do not see the need to go check. How can you fight a battle if you don’t know your strengths? (Or weakness). Ignoring the problem will not let it go away. Once you pull your head up from the sand, you will see the predator patiently waiting to make good your demise.

Stigmatisation is a major problem in this fight against HIV/AIDS. People living with HIV/AIDS are mistreated and discriminated against in most parts of the world. They and their families are not spared the ordeal. Children have to be taken out of school because their friends will not play with them or their teachers will not mark their books. Whole families have been ostracised because one person has contracted the virus. HIV/AIDS spreads and kills faster when stigmatisation comes into play. Stigmatisation is giving the enemy an unfair advantage. It is our duty to stand together and stem the tide of this disease.

AIDS as yet has no cure. As a pharmacist friend once put it ‘when you think its black and white so you create a vaccine for a black and white virus, by the time you will return, it has become black and orange.’ In the meanwhile, we are supposed to do all we can to slow the flow of pain, sadness and malice. What use is treating people who unfortunately have contracted the disease badly if in the end it will motivate them to distribute it (to our demise)? The world has been horrified time and time again with stories of elaborate schemes aimed at distributing the virus. A few years ago, a rich handsome young man was caught in the northern regions of Ghana, he had been ‘distributing the virus by having unprotected sex with many young women’. Needles have pricked people in public places such as theatres all in the bid to get back at the world for their unfair treatment.

People living with HIV/AIDS are people still. They have not changed. How we do treat them can push them over the edge. Imagine being told that you have contracted this virus, only to have your family and friends, your basic support group begin to begrudge you common kindness.

Who is to blame for the destructive march of HIV/AIDS? HIV/AIDS is no respecter of persons. It is spread in diverse ways, through sexual contact with an infected person, through the exchange of bodily fluids. Getting tested takes 20-30 minutes and the relief it gives is priceless. The process is discrete. There is nothing to fear except fear of the virus itself. Voluntary Counselling and Testing centres have been set up aimed at bringing weaponry to the infantry. Join the fight because whether you like it or not, this is war and you have enlisted. Know your status. It’s your first line of defence. Contracting HIV is not the end of the world at all. It is possible to have the HIV and live a long satisfying life. Managing HIV is as simple as living healthy, exercising and having a positive outlook on life. Not knowing your status, discriminating against people rather is the end of the world. I dream of a world where HIV/AIDS is not a basis for discrimination, where people are vigilant and not killed by ignorance.
It may seem distant for the time being, but it is not at all. What can you do about it then? Get tested! Get your friends to do same. That is what I am doing today. Telling a friend to tell a friend to tell a frenimy.