Today the world celebrates World Aids Day. The theme this year centres around voluntary counseling and testing, with the United Nations launching the World Aids Campaign of promoting Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) to reduce new HIV infections.
This campaign will take place during the months of November and December.
Kudos to MTN Rwanda for leading us in this campaign. It takes great leadership courage to do what MTN Rwanda employees did last Friday- they volunteered for HIV testing. Addressing the press Dr. Anita Asimwe, Executive Secretary of the National Aids Control Commission, had a message of hope that the virus was containable if people knew their status.
One can feel for certain that the atmosphere in which discussions on what was once feared as the most dreaded disease, which carried much stigmatisation has changed.
No longer is the skeleton image the symbol of HIV/AIDS. We are no longer nauseated by media images of waned out, emaciated dying figures of men and women on their perceived death beds.
No longer is the impact of the pandemic measured in terms of the numbers of those who have died, but it is measured in the numbers of those who can now access ARV’s to live longer. We are no longer talking of victims but survivors - the world is slowly learning to live positively.
But challenges remain to be dealt with. The numbers of those who need healthy nutritional lifestyles to boost their immune systems.
This means dealing with questions of poverty and food security in poor developing countries, it also means investing in the health institutions to make sure medication is available, to treat even the most opportunistic infections.
It means pregnant women have access to proper medical care.
It means access to ARV’s as a human right. It means responsible international bodies and institutions paying more than lip-service to the pandemic.
It also means heavy penalties for those who deliberately spread the virus.
The atmosphere is full of hope and solidarity, that together families and communities can conquer this pandemic.
Let us all be challenged, to get tested today, and to live responsibly in our sex lives.