Should you test positive for HIV would you reveal your status to anyone who does not fall within your circle of confidantes? Well, the answer is more often than not a big NO.
The fear for stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV is still rampant among most Batswana despite efforts to normalise the disease.
This became apparent at a recent Junior Chambers (JCI) International and Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) Wellness Seminar held at Yarona Country Lodge (Mogoditshane).
Ninety percent of the participants expressed that they would not share their status because a “person’s HIV status is a personal issue which should be kept to themselves or between themselves, their partners, and close family members only.”
The few participants who said they would make public their HIV status expressed that they would do it to inspire others and be an example that one can live a healthy life with HIV. “Being HIV positive is not the end of the world,” they said.
Participants also called on the government to revise some of its policies and procedures for issues such as dispensing Anti-Retro Viral (ARV) medication, where certain areas at health facilities are designated for people living positively (to collect their medication) making it easy for them to be openly identified by others. They said this can discourage some people from collecting their medication.
When speaking about the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) program as one of the efforts to achieve Zero AIDS Related Deaths, Tirelo Ramasedi , the hostess, asked the participants if testing for expectant mothers should also be made compulsory in private health care facilities.
The general consensus was that when expectant mothers are not required to take an HIV test at private health care facilities, it counteracts the National mandate of the PMTCT program and the achievement of Zero New Infections and Zero AIDS Related Deaths.
In her opening remarks, 2014 JCI Gaborone President Naledi Ramasedi mentioned that as the youth are paramount to the social development of the country, and being a youth organisation, it is their responsibility to address issues that affect the youth of our country. “To commemorate the Month of Youth Against Aids (MYAA), JCI Gaborone decided to host a wellness seminar where youth would be informed and educated about preventing new HIV infections and, also about various aspects concerning HIV and AIDS.”
JCI Botswana President Tumelo Masalila said the core mandate of JCI is to empower young people so that they can go out and positively influence the lives of others and their communities. Masalila also mentioned that JCI Gaborone would be hosting a Business networking event aimed at empowering young business men and women to obtain much needed networking skills to further their businesses and careers on 13th April 2014 and encouraged all young business individuals, those in business and those aspiring to go into business to attend the event.
JCI is a non-profit organization of young active citizens of ages 18 to 40 who are engaged and committed to creating impact in their communities.