Worlds AIDS Day was December 1st, and is celebrated to stop the stigma towards individuals who are suffering from this widespread illness. According to HealthChannelTV, A-I-D-S is an acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency System, which as the name implies, makes your immune system inadequate to fight off further infection. It is caused when someone is infected with the HIV virus. Many misunderstandings about how HIV is spread have caused those infected to be societal outcasts. Ready to challenge false beliefs about AIDS, participants are sharing educational facts about the virus so that kindness will reach those infected.
The incentive for those who avoid and discriminate against people with AIDS, is the fear that they could “catch” the fatal disease. This is unreasonable, the HIV virus is only spread through blood, sperm/pre-sperminal fluids,vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Unless you are in intimate contact with an individual with AIDS, sharing a needle, or are in contact with his/her blood, you will not be infected. The HIV virus cannot be spread by shaking hands or exchanging saliva while kissing. Social exchange and showing kindness to those infected will not get you sick!
While scientific facts have been defending those who are HIV positive, individuals with AIDS face immense stigma from healthcare organizations, the government, employers, travel agencies, and the general community. Yet the most impacting stigma is internalized, when the diagnosed individual isolates himself/herself believing they are contagious. The Advert organization states that “The consequences of stigma and discrimination are wide-ranging. Some people are shunned by family, peers and the wider community, while others face poor treatment in healthcare and educational settings, erosion of their an an rights, and psychological damage”. All of such repercussions have stemmed from the myth that the HIV virus can be exchanged through everyday social contact.
Worlds AIDS Day holds significant importance in the stories revealed about the lives of those living with the HIV infection. An interview with Tina Middleton, an independent mother of two, reveals a rock bottom that people with HIV fall to as a result of their diagnosis.
Her personal experience took off during:
“The months following my son Adam’s birth…Looking back now, I don’t know how I got through it. I was suicidal. I had split up with my partner by then (not because of the HIV) and all I used to do was cry. I would look over the balcony of my flat and think about jumping off. Other people found out without me telling them and some of my friends didn’t want to know me. Others asked if I was a sex worker.”
Middleton continued by explaining how:
“Things started to change in 2001…And by then, HIV treatment had changed. There was medication, and I was healthy. People were more aware that it wasn’t a death sentence…”
Out of her endeavor, Middle gains self-confidence once again when she shares how:
“For years, I didn’t want to talk about having HIV, but today I am much more open and I no longer feel isolated…I often go out and give talks about HIV as part of my work and people are frequently surprised when I say I have been living with it for 15 years…In a strange way, if it wasn’t for my HIV, I wouldn’t be who and where I am today.”
May we all be enlightened during Worlds AIDS Day by the stories of trial and triumph, and information being shared about the true nature of the HIV virus. Those discriminated against cling onto the hope that one day they will be accepted by their peers, and it is our responsibility to make that happen. So starting with you we ask, how will you show kindness to those with AIDS?