Living with a disease was something Abiola always obsessed over. His mother and grandmother were both cancer survivors, and watching his elder brother suffer from crisis after crisis due to his sickle cell diagnosis didn’t make it any better.
When his brother eventually died, Abiola dreamt that he would be the next to die every night for the next 12 years. He was only just starting to get used to the idea of having a life worth living, when his worst fear happened. He was diagnosed with HIV.
Abiola couldn’t help but blame himself. He spent so much time obsessing over the thought of dying, that he neglected caring about himself while living. He knew the risk when he would patronise all the brothels in Lagos, and had intercourse without protection once. He also knew the risk when Babagana, the aboki down the street cut his nails and shaved his head for N500.
He knew the risk, he just never thought it’d happen to him. He could barely focus when the Doctor called him into his office. “Mr. Craig, I’m so sorry to…” Abiola tuned out the minute he heard the word sorry. “HIV? Really?” He burst out laughing. “All this time, I thought it would be cancer, or I would be hit by a bus,” he told the doctor. “But I have HIV? This is nothing but a bad joke” With that, he got up and left.
He didn’t turn back when the doctor called his name, he didn’t turn back when the security tried to stop him. He walked past where he parked his car, crossed the road, climbed the bridge, and jumped.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that weakens the immune system of an individual leaving them vulnerable to infections and other diseases. The Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a condition that occurs when HIV has significantly damaged the immune system, and the body can no longer defend itself from infections and other diseases. HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on personal health since it was first discovered in the early 1980s.
HIV can be transmitted in the following ways:
● Engaging in sexual activities that involve exchanging bodily fluids, i.e., anal or vaginal sexual intercourse.
● From mother to child
● By sharing needles, syringes, or sharp equipment that can cut through the skin
HIV is NOT gotten through the following
● By mosquitoes, ticks, or other insects.
● Through saliva, tears, or sweat.
● By hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets, sharing dishes, or closed-mouth or “social” kissing with someone who has HIV.
● Through other sexual activities that don’t involve the exchange of body fluids (for example, touching).
● Through the air.
HIV/AIDS affects personal health in several ways, including physical, mental, emotional, and social health. Physically, HIV/AIDS brings about a range of symptoms, including fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, skin rashes, and muscle and joint pain. It also makes individuals more susceptible to opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, and fungal infections, which can be life-threatening. Additionally, HIV/AIDS can have long-term effects on an individual’s physical health, including damage to major organs like the liver, kidneys, and heart.
HIV may be prevented by
● Getting tested regularly for HIV.
● Choosing less risky sexual behaviours
● Using condoms for every sexual intercourse
● Limiting the number of sexual partners.
● Getting tested and treated for STDs.
● Talking to your health care provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). …
● Not injecting illegal drugs and reusing needles.
Mentally and emotionally, HIV/AIDS can cause significant stress and anxiety. Living with a highly stigmatised and life-threatening illness can cause an individual to feel isolated or depressed. It can also affect an individual’s capacity to work or participate in daily activities, which can increase feelings of frustration, resentment, and anger.
Although times are changing, there is still a stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Socially, HIV/AIDS can have a huge impact on a person’s relationships, particularly with intimate partners or family members.
We can do our part to stop the stigmatisation of HIV by being intentional and thoughtful when choosing our words and choosing to use supportive—rather than stigmatising- words. Other ways we can reduce stigmatisation include:
● Relying on and sharing trusted sources of information.
● Speaking up if we hear, see, or read stigmatising or harassing comments or misinformation.
● Showing compassion and support for individuals and communities more closely impacted.
● Not making assumptions about someone’s health status based on their ethnicity, race or national origin.