Growing up in a country faced with the HIV pandemic it becomes a routine to hear at least a word or two on HIV & AIDS related issues affecting the nation. As early as when we are six years old, we become accustomed to AIDS related stories, whether just myths or the reality on the ground. As we grow into youths we are made aware that there is this deadly pandemic that we need to deal with, including developing a positive mind to live in a positive world.
Little do we know that as much as we think we know about the issues that are related with HIV & AIDS, we soon learn that we are still lacking information on the matter. Doing sessions on sexual reproductive health with a main focus on HIV & AIDS has made me aware that there are a lot of issues that are laying on the ground unresolved in as much as dealing with the pandemic is concerned. There are still some beliefs, which are being practiced in the rural communities that in a way may make it difficult to tackle HIV if not dealt with.
Imagine coming across a situation where people who are living with HIV are still being faced with discrimination. The main reason being that the belief that being close to people living with HIV may in some way transmit the virus to those who are without the virus. There is that fear that doing laundry for a person living with HIV may result with them contracting the virus. As such people living with HIV are being discriminated against. They are left to take care of themselves so as to keep the others from contracting the virus. A case where being HIV positive is considered death, making people hide their status rather than be discriminated against.
Such a tricky situation to be faced with. On a brighter note as the ICS volunteers get to interact with the community members, this issue is being rectified and in the long run people are made aware that when one talks about positive living with HIV, it is all about removing discrimination against people living with HIV. Letting them live their life and involving them in all community work that they as citizens are entitled to.
Volunteers meet before a session
The community is made aware that being HIV positive does not mean the end of the world. It is not death on the part of the person living with HIV. It is a beginning of a life with new hope. A life with new possibilities and together if we support each other in families and also the society at large we live a fulfilled life.
At the end of it all, it has made me realise that being in a country faced with a pandemic does not really mean that you have all the information that you need to know about that particular issue, neither does it mean that we are better equipped to fight against the pandemic. There are still gaps which need to be filled. It begins with sharing our different experiences and being responsible citizens. ICS is key in this process.
Written by ICS volunteer Nellisah U. Tembo