Every year on the 1st December the world marks ‘World AIDS Day;’ which is ideally to raise awareness about the disease all around the world. Started in 1987 World AIDS day is one of the eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization and is currently in its 27th year. More than 35 million people around the world suffer from the disease with 70% of those living in Sub-Saharan Africa. The world observed the day in different ways: there was the traditional Presidential proclamation by President Obama, the launch of a World AIDS Day theme song in Zimbabwe, as well as the donation of medicine and supplies to those most in need all over the world but especially in Africa.
In Africa the stigmatization is still very pure in its form. People have been shunned from their families, lost their jobs, lost customers of their businesses all because of a disease. I personally think this should be the main focus of World AIDS day. In places like Kenya the situation is so dire that many HIV-positive children who have lost their parents to the disease are taking care of themselves as a result of being abandoned by their families. We need to remind those who have chosen to forget that people living with HIV and AIDS are still human beings, and more importantly can contribute positively to the society. Stigmatization is the reason that people fear getting tested and telling people about their condition thus leading to the spread of AIDS only increasing. Who would want to willingly surrender themselves for isolation? In the words of the late Nelson Mandela who was a champion of the pandemic “let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because [that is] the only way to make it appear like a normal illness.” I could not agree more.
The problem with this disease is not with the many people suffering from it, it is with all the people that make it that much worse. For all the millions of people trying to go on with their lives – especially in Africa – World AIDS day is more than a red ribbon as their WhatsApp display picture, or a retweet on their twitter feed, it is hope that they will one day be fully re-accepted back into society. For them the pain of being stigmatized and discriminated against cannot be eased by anti-retroviral drugs, it can only be healed by the society educating themselves on the normalness of the disease and moving forward together.