Talking about AIDS
Awareness campaigns should be launched for medical professionals so patients can get treatment without being judged for their actions. PHOTO: AFP
Patients suffering from HIV/AIDS are often seen as the untouchables of society. Their character is judged and their existence stigmatised. The taboos surrounding the illness deprive many carriers of the compassion that the sufferers of any disease deserve. Despite all the taboos associated with HIV/AIDS, one positive measure has recently come to light,
which deserves our appreciation. An organisation to help patients of HIV/AIDS called the Association of People Living with HIV-Pakistan, with the support of UNAIDS, has launched the Positive Female Network (Pofen) for women affected by HIV/AIDS on International Women’s Day celebrated last week. More than 600 women from across Pakistan have registered with the association. Many of these are sex workers as well as women who contracted the disease from their husbands.
Pofen aims to give a voice to carriers of HIV/AIDS and enable them to exercise their right to a healthy and dignified life. The group also intends to increase awareness and reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with the illness. It is hoped that the initiative helps protect people from the abuse that carriers are often known to be subjected to. Similar forums and initiatives should also be promoted in public spaces and hospitals, and people should be encouraged to get themselves tested. According to 2013 statistics published by UNAIDS, there are 68,000 people in Pakistan suffering from HIV and 90 per cent of these cases exist in 10-12 cities of the country.
If awareness campaigns are concentrated even in these 10-12 cities, we can hope to substantially minimise the problem at hand. It is also important to initiate debate on safe sex and ensure that people are aware enough not to reuse syringes, as is often the case even at hospitals. Furthermore, awareness campaigns should be launched for medical professionals so patients can get treatment without being judged for their actions. Nobody should lose their right to live a happy life just because it is difficult to talk about a problem.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2015.