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5 ridiculous things some people still believe about HIV and AIDS

Health24

The theme of 2018 is “Know your status”, which emphasises the importance of getting tested.

Here are a couple of misconceptions that need to be cleared up. Some are harsh and ignorant untruths while others are just absolute myths.

1. Only ‘high-risk people such as homosexuals and promiscuous people’ should be tested for HIV.

First, what defines “high risk”? Being with one long-term partner does not mean that you will never contract HIV.

“HIV can happen to anyone. It’s not a disease of the promiscuous. Think about survivors of rape or someone born with HIV,” says Barbara Kingsley, an HIV activist who was diagnosed in 2000.

And regardless of that, no-one should be shamed for their sexual choices and lifestyle.

It’s important to know your status as symptoms may not manifest for years and people can be completely unaware that they have HIV. The earlier you know your status, the earlier you can start taking antiretrovirals (ARVs) to combat the virus and take control of your status. You will also need to know your status to reduce the risk of infecting other possible sexual partners.

Regular testing will also help you raise awareness and break the stigma surrounding HIV/Aids by improving the negative attitudes and perceptions in your own family and circle of friends, even if you are with a long-term partner or not having sex at all.

2. You will get very sick and die if you are HIV positive.

Yes, HIV can lead to Aids. Yes, Aids can be fatal. Does this mean that you are immediately doomed as soon as you are tested positive? Certainly not. Nowadays, HIV is well controlled through ARVs, and many HIV positive people live completely healthy, happy lives.

It may take years for the immune system to deteriorate to such an extent that someone living with HIV becomes ill and is diagnosed with Aids.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV will progress to Aids if not treated with ARVs. This will usually happen after about 10 to 15 years, and before it happens, people with HIV may look and feel perfectly well and can continue life to the fullest.

HIV is no longer a death sentence and the sooner you are tested, the sooner you can start the proper treatment.

3. ‘I will never contract HIV/Aids. It’s a disease that only poor people get.’

This statement is so harsh that you cannot imagine anyone saying it out loud. The truth is, HIV is blind to colour or economic status.

According to a paper published in the journal AIDS, stigma surrounding HIV/Aids is a big factor in the limitation of proper treatment.

You as an individual might feel helpless in the face of the quest to find a cure for HIV, or to ensure that everyone has access to medicine and medical care. But what you can do is to start changing the views and perceptions of people in your immediate circle, which can have a wider effect on society.

4. ‘He/she is very skinny. They must have HIV/Aids.’

Progressive Aids in its end stages can cause weight loss and an impaired immune system. Untreated HIV can lead to Aids. However, there is no way of telling someone’s status by simply looking at them.

Physical signs and symptoms can take years to manifest or may never do so, especially when an HIV positive person is taking ARVs and has a healthy, active lifestyle.

5. It’s impossible to marry/have a sexual relationship if you are HIV positive.

Unprotected sex is the most common way of spreading HIV. But with protection, there is no reason why an HIV positive person can’t have a fulfilling relationship with an HIV negative person.

With proper treatment and management through ARVs, there is a chance that the viral load (the presence of HIV in your blood) may be undetectable. Research has shown that having an undetectable viral load can lead to little to no risk of spreading the virus to other people.

However, Barbara Kingsley says that it remains important always to use protection, no matter what your viral load:

“The goal of ARVs is for the virus to eventually become undetectable. This means that if you have an undetectable viral load for a period of six months or longer you cannot pass the virus on to others. It is very important to understand that this doesn’t protect you against pregnancy or any other STD, and that you can still practise irresponsible sex — you should ideally be in a monogamous, long-term relationship. An undetectable state can ONLY be achieved with ARVs, something that has been scientifically proven and internationally accepted. (It, however, doesn’t mean that you can have unprotected sex as you wish.)”

Health24 previously told the story of Quinton Jonck, a South African living with HIV. He said the following:

“My wife is wonderful – I tried to break it off with her early on in our relationship because I believed we had no future. She wanted to hear nothing about that and two years later we got married.

“Five years after we got married we had our first child. He was conceived using a procedure called sperm washing and insemination. When we had the next two children, I was on medication to take my viral load down to zero and we took a chance just at the right time. Now we have three children – two boys and a girl [all HIV negative].

“We are very happy and my wife is still HIV negative after almost 14 years of marriage. Although we only found out about my status after we met, we have always used condoms.

Get tested

It’s important to know your status. You can get tested at any of the following institutions, in both the public and private sectors:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Pharmacies who offer clinic services
  • Community health centres
  • Family planning clinics
  • STD clinics
  • Pathological laboratories

Make sure that these institutions offer HIV/Aids counselling to help you process the result and to answer any further questions.

A topic of heated debate: Should HIV testing be compulsory?

According to UNAIDS, 36.9 million people around the world are living with HIV. South Africa currently has the largest HIV epidemic in the world, with 7.2 million of its citizens affected by the virus.

Southern and Eastern Africa is home to 50% of the world’s HIV positive population. It’s no wonder the question of whether or not HIV testing should be compulsory keeps popping up.

Earlier this year two Ugandan ministers were backing the call for compulsory HIV testing. The ministers in question were Sarah Achieng Opendi, the State Minister of Health, and Janat Mukwaya, the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Justice.

According to an article in The Guardian, Mukwaya believed that compulsory HIV testing would allow the stigma surrounding the epidemic to diminish and that through the Ugandan government’s test and treat initiative those affected would receive the help that they need.

The Forgotten Fighters of the AIDS Epidemic

AIDS and its legacy have devastated millions of people around the globe since the 1980s. While hard-fought progress has been made, every day lives from every section of society are still being lost to the condition.

In August, Zambian President Edgar Lungu announced that HIV testing was now compulsory in his country. According to News24 Lungu said, “I must admit that there were some colleagues who felt that this policy would infringe on human rights but there [is] no one [who] has the right to take away somebody’s life. Just the same way we don’t consult you for consent when we are testing for malaria, we will go ahead and test you for HIV and we will counsel you and if you are positive; we will commence you on treatment.”

Both announcements by these countries were met with stark opposition and the comments and decisions made were quickly retracted. However, the question about whether or not HIV testing should be compulsory still lingers.

Public debate

Researchers investigating the pros and cons of compulsory HIV testing for pregnant women found that women, children and society as a whole would benefit from mandatory testing.

However, they felt that it should not be something used by governments simply for the sake of testing but as a means to stop the spread of infection and to treat those infected.

debate between Médicins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders, MSF) and the University of Cape Town’s Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) highlighted the different viewpoints of those in favour and those against compulsory HIV testing.

According to Dr Gilles van Cutsem from MSF, mandatory testing could slow down the rate of new infections and help those who were unaware of their HIV status.

Professor Leslie London, director of the School of Public Health at UCT argued that compulsory testing was an abuse of human rights and that there were other methods available to encourage people to get tested.

In an interview Health-e news, labour lawyer Marlene Potgieter notes that “HIV/Aids is mired in folklore, suspicion and mistrust and the fact that it is a disease that comes from having sex (mostly). It is something that is not spoken about openly… People simply disappear quietly from the workplace and die in silence.”

Confidential HIV testing is considered as a human right. The UN’s International Covenant on Political and Social Rights states that one’s human rights may be limited if it’s a matter of public interest. This limitation may only be initiated if it serves an objective purpose and there are no other alternatives to solving the problem.

Know your status

Because we live in a country with such high HIV rates, South Africans are regularly encouraged to get themselves tested. Knowing your status can save the lives of those around you, from your partner to your unborn child. Various clinics and health centres around the country offer free, confidential HIV testing. Last year BIOSURE, the HIV self-test, was legally approved, making it that much easier for people to get tested in private.

Clarifications on SSRs for the Key Populations and Adolescent Girls and Young Women Global Fund Grants (2018-2020)

National AIDS Council has received some questions from prospective Bidders on the Advert for SSRs for KP and AGYW Grants (2018-2020). National AIDS Council is pleased to provide clarifications on the areas that partners have raised as follows:
Question 1:
How rigid shall we understand those activities described in the budget? Shall we follow stringently or can introduce other activities if they are within the budget frame?
NAC’s Response:
Activities for the Call to Proposal are supposed to be as per what is spelt out in the Detailed Implementation Plan (DIP) and the budgets that have been allocated to the activities are non-negotiable as they were negotiated for already with the Global Fund during the Grant Negotiation Process.

Question 2:

The budget has allocated budget frames for salaries; shall we follow GF salary frame or our own? Can we include other staff if it is within the budget frame?

NAC’s Response:

You are advised to follow the GF salary frame as it is what the DIP entails. You are allowed to propose a Grant Management Structure but you should be within the Budget frame of the lines on HR costs

Question 3:

Can we include salaries for program staff under activities, e.g. training?

NAC’s Response:
Salaries for program staff cannot be included under activities

Question 4:
Can NAC arrange private meetings to meet organizations to explain more on the Grants requirements?

NAC’s Response:
No. NAC cannot arrational AIDS Council has received some questions from prospective Bidders on the Advert for SSRs for KP and AGYW Grants (2018-2020). National AIDS Council is pleased to provide clarifications on the areas that partners have raised as follows:
Question 1:
How rigid shall we understand those activities described in the budget? Shall we follow stringently or can introduce other activities if they are within the budget frame?
NAC’s Response:
Activities for the Call to Proposal are supposed to be as per what is spelt out in the Detailed Implementation Plan (DIP) and the budgets that have been allocated to the activities are non-negotiable as they were negotiated for already with the Global Fund during the Grant Negotiation Process.

Question 5:

The budget has allocated budget frames for salaries; shall we follow GF salary frame or our own? Can we include other staff if it is within the budget frame?

NAC’s Response:

You are advised to follow the GF salary frame as it is what the DIP entails. You are allowed to propose a Grant Management Structure but you should be within the Budget frame of the lines on HR costs

Question 6:

Can we include salaries for program staff under activities, e.g. training?

NAC’s Response:
Salaries for program staff cannot be included under activities

Question 7:

Can NAC arrange private meetings to meet organizations to explain more on the Grants requirements?

NAC’s Response:
No. NAC cannot arrange to meet with organizations individually to explain more on the Grants Requirements. All quires are to be forwarded to NAC via email and NAC will respond to the questions on the NAC Website. May you please make use of the provided templates and TORs for further guidance.

Question 8
We would like clarification on the following matters (i) Budget celling (ii) Definition of general staff
NAC’s Response

  1. May you please be guided by the attached Detailed Implementation Plans herewith attached which show the Budget lines for all activities for the different thematic areas in the two Grants i.e. Key populations and AGYW. In other words you can be guided on the budget ceiling by referring to the attached budgets for the different thematic areas
  2. Prospective SSRs are required to propose a Grant management structure which stipulates the key posts that will effectively manage the implementation of the grant activities. This Grant Management Structure should be costed and constitutes the Financial Proposal as stipulated in Section 7: Financial Proposal Form.
NATIONAL AIDS COUNCIL AGYW PROPOSED FORECASTED CASH FLOWS
Classification  Sum of Y1
Total Cash Outflow
Sum of Y2
Total Cash Outflow
Sum of Y3
Total Cash Outflow
Sum of Y1-3
Total Cash Outflow
DREAMS       1,227,386.00       1,174,136.00       1,180,336.00       3,581,858.00
One Stop Centre           218,100.00           186,280.00           191,000.00          595,380.00
SASA           741,983.00           317,021.00           389,021.00       1,448,025.00
Sister to Sister           989,320.07           923,710.20           924,760.33       2,837,790.60
Grand Total   3,176,789.07   2,601,147.20   2,685,117.33       8,463,053.60

Question 9
We are seeking clarity on the budget which is silent on the in school teacher training on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and other school club related activities yet these activities are in the TORs

NAC’s Response
The School teacher training on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and other school club related activities is an SR activity that is why the budget is silent on it.

NAC At The Zimbabwe International Trade Fair

NAC At The ZITF

The National AIDS Council (NAC) will as usual be participating in the 58th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) under the theme: NAC Harnessing Linkages For Ending AIDS By 2030.

You are all invited to the NAC stand. NAC has packaged information for clients of all ages, race, social standing and creed. Information to be provided will be on the prevention and management of HIV, cancer and cancer prevention and a lot more. Information on nutrition and positive living for those living with HIV and AIDS will also be available at the NAC stand.

Young people getting into the video screening room at the NAC stand in 2016

Young people (10-24 years) have been classified as a key populat as research has shown that they are at greater risk of getting infected with HIV than adults. NAC realizes the importance of this generation and will have a section specifically set for young people on the stand. Here there will be peer to peer discussions, video screening, dialogues and written information to take home. It will be in the best interests of all young people to visit the NAC stand and get this life saving information. Young women and girls will also get information that will empower them to be able to refuse to engage in sex or ensure that they have safe sex at the right time. Even young children of primary school going age should visit the NAC stand as there is some information for them too.

Legislators from the Thematic Health Committee and Portfolio Comittee on Health and Child Care will be at the stand to dialogue with those affected and infected with HIV to see what government can improve on to end AIDS by 2030.

There will be HIV testing and counselling as well as TB screening, blood pressure and diabetes testing at the stand. Families and individuals are encouraged to come and take up these services as well as to get information that will help them lead long and healthy lives. Those who are positive will know how to live positively and those who are negative will get information on how to maintain their negative status.

Lobby group petitions Mugabe for mandatory HIV testing

A LOCAL Aids service organisation has petitioned President Robert Mugabe to flex his Executive powers and declare compulsory HIV testing for all citizens, as a last ditch attempt to halt the spread of the disease.

BY Phyllis Mbanje

The Citizens Aids Survival Trust (Cast) said this drastic action would initiate the process of ending death and destruction of “an entire black human race in sub-Saharan Africa and Zimbabwe in particular”.

The petition, which was signed during a Press conference last Friday, stated that the Constitution empowered Mugabe to curtail certain human liberties for the sole purpose of containing the spread of infectious, contagious and communicable diseases.

“The threat of destruction of our people is the biggest single matter of national interest. The right to safety and security from all manner of threats is enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” the organisation’s executive director, David Chiweza said.

He said Cast had, for the past 27 years, advocated for the institutionalisation of mandatory HIV testing.

In 2013, during a Sadc meeting in Malawi, Mugabe raised a storm when he openly suggested that the region should adopt forced HIV and Aids testing to curb the endemic.

“While there is need to respect rights of individuals, there is need to subject everyone to examinations because those who volunteer are not the ones who have been infected,” Mugabe said then.

Meanwhile, the organisation also petitioned the President to dissolve the entire board of the National Aids Council for failing to come up with effective mitigatory strategies against the disease.

“They are bereft of ideas and have negated their constitutional and legal duty to use the power vested upon them to apply their minds to stopping the spread of HIV,” Chiweza said.

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