Don’t carry the burden alone

2013-12-01 14:00

In the last decade, government has made antiretroviral treatment available to about two million HIV-positive South Africans. And there are plans to increase this number by 1.5?million by 2016.

This will see more than half of the approximately six?million infected people in the country receiving the much needed life-prolonging medicines.

Medical schemes are also making it easier for their members to receive similar treatment.

Several other efforts made by government and NGOs in the health sector to educate people about the disease are commendable.

However, the stigma attached to being HIV positive cannot be left to those infected to deal with on their own.

In the past, the stigma was rife among the poor across the country, many of whom would rather die than be seen at clinics receiving their medication. Although the stigma is far from eradicated, the situation has improved.

But, as we report elsewhere in this newspaper on the occasion of World Aids

Day, the stigma is very much alive in the suburbs, where patients receive their medication by courier and hide it in vitamin containers. They carry the burden alone without the support of their families from whom they hide their secret.

Being HIV-positive is no longer life-threatening, provided patients take their medication as directed. There is no need to reject and judge those who have contracted the virus. Let us rather stifle the stigma and carry the burden together.

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