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Watching MTV Shuga’s HIV series, a few years back, opened my eyes to several things as it relates to HIV/AIDS patients. It made me understand that being HIV positive is just like having an ulcer. “If you can keep up with the treatment, you can live a normal life.”

HIV/AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease with symptoms, including fever, fatigue, and frequent infections. Apart from being an STD, an individual can also contract it through blood contact.Before I continue, what is HIV/AIDS?

HIV is simply a Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This deadly virus is capable of damaging a patient’s immune system preventing the body from performing its normal function of fighting infections. HIV affects the immune system by killing a type of T cells (immune cell) known as CD4 (Cluster of Differentiation 4) cells. The reduction in the amount of CD4 cells in the body makes the patient prone to several infections and diseases like cancer.

AIDS, on the other hand, is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS develops when HIV is left untreated. At this point, the immune system has become immunocompromised (too weak) to fight off even the least infection. Despite the fact that AIDS can still be managed, treating at the stage of HIV is crucial to living a healthy life.

Once HIV is detected, treatment should immediately begin. At that point, CD4 count might still be at a reasonable range, and keeping the count high via Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is key to living THE LIFE. With a higher CD4 comes a lower HIV load, and that is what every HIV patient needs to achieve. Only then can you look at HIV in the eye, imaginatively, and tell it to “Take a piss!”

Now that you know some things about HIV/AIDS, I’d like to say that HIV isn’t scary unless you make it so.

Let’s talk about HIV as it relates to love-life for a second.

The society has attached a stigma to people with HIV; they’ve made people with HIV feel like a non-member of the community and secluded for way too long that we at SHUN STIGMA say “enough is enough.”

From watching the series I mentioned earlier, it became easier to understand stigmatization from most angles. An HIV patient in Africa has a whole new identity (given by the public) which is not supposed to be; the public stigmatizes you from a moral value and ignorance standpoint.

Even some health providers whom one would expect to be best friends with these patients rather stigmatize them also from a moral value standpoint.

All these can eventually make a patient feel stigmatized and tag him/herself as love-unworthy.

Imagine being constantly reminded of how unworthy you are; it doesn’t feel right. It then becomes challenging for patients to find a partner, even if they do, they, one way or the other still feel tagged. Even family members of patients from African descent neglect their one-time loved ones because of their HIV status.

In the midst of all these, you have a community of separated few who truly understands what HIV/AIDS entails. These communities include health providers, society members, and HIV patients. The patients in this category enjoy their lives to the fullest because knowledgeable people most-times surround them, and they are also not ignorant.

Sadly, these groups of people are like “one tiny bite of a big apple.” In other to increase the bite, the SHUN STIGMA group in cooperation with SARMLife will create awareness about HIV/AIDS. The outreach entails letting patients know they are lovable, informing the general public about the disease, and making HIV/AIDS come off as a typical headache.

It is essential to know that HIV/AIDS is not curable. But by strictly following the antiretroviral regimens (ARVs), one can take control of how fast the disease progresses.



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