Currently there are more than 33 million people in the world living with HIV and AIDS, according to avert.org. This website also reports that 605,480 people died of HIV and AIDS related causes in South Africa in 2006 (although this is sometimes difficult to calculate). Many people have relatives, friends, and partners who have died of HIV and AIDS.
In the past few years a lot has been done by governments, health organisations and researchers to develop medication and preventative measures for this incurable disease. But this is also a disease that requires personal responsibility from those affected by it.
Recently it was revealed at the International Aids Conference in Vienna that researchers had developed a vaginal gel that decreases the probability of women acquiring HIV/AIDS by 39 percent and genital herpes by 51 percent if applied before and after sex, the Wall Street Journal reports. It is estimated that the gel, in the next 10 years, could prevent half a million infections in South Africa alone.
But, as with other preventative measures like the use of condoms and treatment measures such as the use of anti-retroviral medication, responsibility lies with the individual to actually make use thereof and, especially in the case of ARVs, to keep on using it.
We all have a role to play in supporting those living with HIV and AIDS, as the stigmatisation of the disease is causing real damage. Stigma keeps people from getting tested for HIV and collecting their ARVs. They fear that people will reject them if they know they are HIV positive. Stigma even keeps some people from using a condom as they are scared that their partner will think they are using it because they have HIV.
It is also really disheartening to hear that people are now stealing and smoking ARVs and marijuana as a mixture called whoonga. Some people are too afraid to collect their ARVs from clinics as they might be mugged on their way home.
Luckily there are also many individuals that are supporting people living with HIV and AIDS. Especially women often act as care givers to these people. They should truly be commended for the incredible work they are doing.
Recognition is also necessary for the South Africans that are protecting themselves when they have intimate relationships with their partners and for those who are affected, but taking treatment appropriately. We are proud of you! This shows that if South Africans work together, we can conquer!