I have a younger sister who is currently taking her undergraduate studies at the university. And because I know how tough and life changing university can get, once in a while we get to have private sister-sister time and just talk about life. We talk about what she is going through, what she thinks, what she feels about school, dating and her part time work. Recently while we were talking, we stumbled upon a very interesting topic. And I feel in me that it is something worth writing about and sharing it with the world… Because that is how I express myself, I write, I blog, I campaign. That is just who I am.
So the story goes like this, my younger sister began by telling me about a young girl that used to be in her school, she must be in her mid-twenties by now. Anyways, this young girl lived her entire llife in university under stigma because she was HIV Positive, she was infected as an infant through her mother. How did the school know about her status? Well, you know girls being girls, bond over talking, and she being a girl, decided to tell her close friend in class that she is HIV positive; A condition that she was born with. She was trying to explain to her friend why she was constantly falling ill and would have to miss some classes because of her illness. Unfortunately for her, the friend decided to tell another friend who told another friend and before long, the entire school knew about her status.
So when the news was no longer secret, the Stigma began! The student lost her friends. No one in the class wanted to sit close to her. If she picked a seat on the left, then the entire students would sit on the right. And this became the order of the day for close to 3 semesters, until the day the mentioned girl ended up breaking it out in tears to one of the school lecturers. I must say that in this day and age, I was very surprised that there is still stigmatization in our schools over the HIV status of another being! But oh well, this is just part of the life that my sister has had to face in uni.
The girl in question (lets just give her a name Brenda not her real name though), having opened up to the lecturer, she not only got herself a lecturer but a friend and mentor in the lecturer. And as any good mentor would do, the lecturer called the Brenda’s friend and threatened her that if she does not go back and fix the mess and stigma she had started, he was going to ensure that she never graduates. So this girl went back to the class and apologized for spreading a ‘Lie about Brenda’ and the stigma in school stopped. Brenda got her joy and peace back.
In the course of mentorship with her lecturer, they got talking about life, how it is like living positively, if she is dating or not, and that was when the lecturer discovered that Brenda not only had a boyfriend, but she was sexually active with her boyfriend. Of course, this brought about further discussion, Was Brenda and her boyfriend having Protected Sex? To which Brenda said no. So the Lecturer Asks Brenda, does the boyfriend know about her Status? And Brenda says no! Apparently according t Brenda, she does not know how to break down the news about her status to her boyfriend. She in fact doesn’t know how to break down the news to anyone else after the Stigma she faced in School! And the lecturer Tells her that she has got to find a way to break the news to her boyfriend, because in our country INFECTING SOMEONE WITH A DISEASE KNOWINGLY IS A CRIMINAL ACT. Brenda swears that she will break the news to her boyfriend but she never really does, but she continues with the affair until the man dumped her.
A few months pass while Brenda is still under the mentorship of her lecturer/friend and the lecturer manages to get Brenda an intern position in a big media house in Town. Of course the payment package is great and she has been given an opportunity to become a voice and actually make an impact in the society, but that is not what is in the mind and heart of Brenda. Complains arise in the Office about her conduct! Brenda is not only sexually lewd but she is also very promiscuous in the office. Within 3 months, the Human resource office has got no choice than to let her go. And that is the time that Brenda gets to have a ‘Lets get real encounter’ with her Lecturer.
It turns out that all that Brenda wants is to be loved. She Craves love and attention so much that she has translated love and acceptance to mean sexual intimacy. Then question that begs an answer is this; Is she using protection with all her male partners? Brenda says no! trying to get to the root of the problem with Brenda the lecturer pushes her to explain why she does what she does, and she says this shocking answer “IN ALL FAIRNESS SIR, THEY MUST DIE”. This lecturer then finds himself in a quagmire. Would he be wronged for reporting Brenda to the authorities and getting her arrested to stop her spreading the virus? Or, does he get her admitted in a mental hospital institution?
And from this talk, I realized that there is a side that many people have always overlooked when it comes to dealing with the those Affected and Infected with HIV! What do we do with those who are moving around spreading the virus knowingly, thinking that in all fairness, they must Die!? We have raised voices against stigma, WE have talk about living positively, But what about the that inner anger of the victims who feel they got a death sentence that they didn’t deserve? What about the case of Brenda who was born free of HIV but somewhere along birth and Weaning she got the virus passed down to her by her mother? What do we do about those children who grow up carriers? What is the moral responsibility of the people around Victim; are we allowed to blow the whistle on the victims when we see them spreading the virus or not!? As a community, how do we cope with the infant infections emotional well-being?
As far as I can see, we have a looming crisis at hand; We have the living positively campaign taking place and just because someone is swallowing pills to keep them alive even though they have got a virus in their body, does not mean that they are truly living positively in their minds and in their hearts. So I pose the question to the world, HOW DO WE COPE WITH THOSE FEW WHO HAVE THE MENTALITY THAT, IN ALL FAIRNESS, EVERYONE ELSE MUST CARRY THEIR DEATH SENTENCE LIKE THEM? How do we Help?