Promise Eze writes,

Yesterday was World’s AIDS day.

Nasiru Aliyu, the president of the Anti–AIDS club on campus, gave me a HIV self-help test kit for free. The self-help kit is user friendly. It can be used effectively by anyone. It has two pouches, one of which contains a flat pad and the other a tube housing some sort of liquid. After placing the flat pad firmly against my gum and swabbing it along my upper and lower gums, I am expected to then put the flat pad all the way into the tube until it touches the bottom. The leaflet in the oral test kit instructs that I should leave the flat pad in the tube for 20 minutes before reading the results. In fact I was told I could back next week for a blood test too.

Everyone should get tested for HIV. But not everyone would because the stigma associated with HIV would not let them do so.

In this part of the world HIV/AIDS is a commentary on one’s moral standing. To many here contracting the virus means that one has been living a promiscuous life. Even religious clerics preach that HIV is a punishment from God to those who have been having sex outside the context of marriage. One who tests positive for HIV dares not reveal one’s status to family and friends. How should one bear the shame of carrying the supposed negative result of extramarital sex?

It behooves you to know that while HIV spreads through unprotected sex, it also spreads via other channels. For example, sharing sharp objects like razors and clippers with others could make you susceptible to the virus. It can also spread through blood transfusion and from mother to child before, during and after childbirth.

Be in the know that while we are busy attributing the spread of the virus to promiscuity ALONE, the deadly virus is spreading like wide fire via other means.

This HIV–induced stigma is deadlier than the virus. If we could all have open conversations about HIV/AIDS and how it could be prevented no one would have any ground to stigmatize anyone, and the spread of the virus would be checked.Not everyone who tested positive for the virus was promiscous. Some of the victims were just not lucky.

A lot of people are not aware that there’s treatment for HIV/AIDS. The virus is no longer a death sentence. But how would people know when the topic of HIV has been buried under the carpet of silence, and stigma?

We attribute the spread of the virus to promiscuity ALONE. We stigmatize. And stigma feeds silence. And silence becomes a pandemic itself. And then hiding under the cloak of silence the virus keeps spreading. We must break this silence to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Go get tested today!

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