Infectious Diseases

Ideas on Eradicating AIDS



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"Ideas on Eradicating AIDS"
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From an African perspective I can't help but be amused at the thought of educating people about HIV/AIDS. My amusement is coloured by shame. Our president, Thabo Mbeki, went on record in the media saying that the scientists were wrong, that HIV does not cause AIDS. Nelson Mandela had to come out and refute the comment publicly. Then we have our Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, claiming that a concoction of Africa Potato, Beetroot and Garlic etc.. would cure AIDS. She became the joke of the week on every radio station in the country. But though we may laugh, the damage has been done.

If our top political figures are so controversially in denial of the problem, then we can never change the attitudes or beliefs of their supporters who live in poverty in rural areas.

Here in Africa, many people who suspect that they may have AIDS do not get tested because they are afraid of the result and they are afraid that someone will find out that they went for the test. In South Africa, those with HIV/AIDS are often ostracized, threatened and intimidated by their communities.

In some communities the fear is such that if a black woman is going on a diet and will be losing a noticeable amount of weight, she lets everyone know beforehand so that when her weight starts to drop she will not be suspected of having HIV/AIDS.

We have a new phenomenon in South Africa - child headed households. There are so many families where the parents have both died from AIDS that the children are orphaned with the oldest sibling left to care for the younger ones, that the government has had to make provision for them.

There are so many different groups trying to raise awareness of AIDS in South Africa that it is difficult to keep track of them all. We have our AIDS awareness days and weeks, with red ribbons on display in the streets and campaigns at various companies. We have a gazetted labour relations act: 'Code of Good Practice on Aspects of HIV/AIDS Employment'.

Nelson Mandela has gone a long way toward trying to bring awareness of the reality of AIDS, as well as trying to 'de-stigmatise' the disease, by his public admission that his son died of AIDS. He is one man, admittedly a great man, but his lone voice is not strong enough to reach us all in our complacency.

I think that in many ways we have become inured to the existence and consequences of HIV/AIDS and that it will remain in the back of our minds until the day someone we love, or we ourselves, have the disease.

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