Illiteracy will probably always be a problem, and because of that greater efforts should be made to educate people in a way that makes sense. Speaking to them face to face, in a language they understand.
And I’m not just talking about teaching them skills that can earn an income, but rather teaching them to make an informed decision about their lives when it really matters.
Perhaps because the disease is still stigmatised and people don’t want to tell others they have it, or worse, even be tested for it; perhaps because they don’t know what choices there are and how they can extend living healthy lives; either way – too many deaths due to HIV/AIDS can be prevented to ignore the importance of knowing. Knowing your status. Knowing your options. Knowing you can get counselling and have your community support you. Knowing how the disease is spread and how to prevent it. Knowing that being positive doesn’t have to be a death sentence. One way or another we are all going to die. Having a terminal disease should not stop you from continuing to dream and hope and work towards those ambitions.
This is what I know – without having done any extensive research on the matter; merely reading the occasional article over the years. If you test HIV-positive, you have a choice: taking anti-retrovirals (ARVs) or not. Unfortunately that choice is often made for people due to the lack of availability, but let’s for a moment consider there is enough ARVs for everyone who needs it. To make the choice that is right for you, you need all the information. You need to know that there are some nasty side effects to the medicine, and that it might influence your lifestyle. You need to know that you must take responsibility for your health by ensuring that you take your medicine every day, and to make sure you stay healthy.
Or you could choose not to take the ARVs, and rather take vitamins and holistic supplementations. And if that is your choice no one has the right to judge you.
Surely there’s an opportunity for Government to train unemployed and unskilled people – especially in rural areas – to educate their communities about the pros and cons of both ARVs and living with HIV and not taking ARVs. Paying peer councillors minimum wage could decrease unemployment, crime, and deaths related to AIDS.
The last important thing I think people should know, is that no one dies of AIDS. They die as the result of complications caused by AIDS. They die because they had a flu and didn’t take care of it, and because the HI-virus prevented their bodies from fighting the flu as it might’ve done ordinarily.
Yes, people tend to become cautious and uncomfortable around those who have AIDS, but you can’t get it from talking to that person. Asking how they are, listening to their concerns. No man is an island. Fear makes people irrational, and they fear because they don’t understand; they don’t know.
Do you know?