The Monster Stigma; Root Cause Of New HIV/AIDS Infections In Ghana

Ever since sub-Saharan Africa recorded its first case of HIV/AIDS, it has become the sub-continent’s biggest public health threat till date.

Over the years a lot of progress has been made in the fight against the disease. The once killer disease is now easily manageable and can be classified in the leagues of diabetes, asthma and hypertension.

It will suffice to say without much doubt that the HIV disease has been defeated clinically yet it still remains a social monster in many settings especially in developing Africa.

In the advent of the disease, it was portrayed as a very dangerous and fatal disease without a cure. At that time, contracting HIV was seen as a hopeless situation and much more likened to a death sentence.

Considering that its main mode of transmission was through sexual intercourse, it was seen as a disease for perverts and promiscuous people, something seriously frowned upon by Ghanaian culture. These negative tagging birthed the stigmatization and social discrimination the disease came with.

A lot has been done in the area of HJV/AIDS and so much money has been sunk into the fight against the disease and this has yielded tremendous results.

Current emerging knowledge proves that HIV is no more life threatening as it used to be. It is now a manageable condition like diabetes, hypertension or asthma.

So the question is, if HIV is as manageable as diabetes or hypertension, why then has it been singled out for so much stigmatization?. Even hepatitis, a condition three times more contagious than HIV has been spared this social stigma.

So the question remains why?
It remains to be said that stigma is the single most important hurdle to be crossed in the fight against HIV in Ghana today.

Due to stigmatization people fear to declare their HIV status to their partner or potential partner putting them at a position to also spread the disease unknowingly. Many people do not even want to know their HIV status because the attached stigma of being positive is something they shudder to bear.

I have heard of the story of a pregnant woman, who discovered her HIV-positive status through routine test,and from her account, she most likely contracted the virus from her husband but when she told him about the situation, he went AWOL, deserting their marriage of many years.

This is a very common scenario and the most worrying part is that these fleeing partners may be carrying the virus with the potential of infecting other people.

I believe it is high time we devised innovative strategies to disarm and possibly destroy completely, this monster of stigmatization from our society.

When this issue of stigma is overcome, people would gladly like to know their HIV status so they adjust their lifestyles accordingly. New couples will get themselves tested before engaging in any sexual activity. Couples will still stick together even when it is discovered that one is infected.

Besides this, even if a full cure is found for the disease, stigmatization will still derail attempts to completely eradicate it.

In conclusion, I would like to say that some fort bearers of HIV/AIDS campaigns did a very bad job by painting a gloomy and hopeless picture of the disease thereby creating a monster which we are still trying to kill today.

( MG )
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