At the launch of a month-long advocacy leading up towards World AIDS Day people in Ghana living with the virus are asking society for acceptance as normal human beings who are able and willing to contribute to national development against the disease. President of the National Association of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS, Mr. Kofi Amofah, believes stigmatizing those who have chosen not to remain in seclusion with their diagnosis only discourages others from joining the fight against the virus.
World AIDS Day 2014 is being celebrated in Ghana with the theme, “Ghana towards a HIV free generation through PMTCT, Safe sex and Stigma Reduction.” According to Amofah, many community based programs and projects on HIV/AIDS have been ditched. He fears the campaign against the epidemic will remain just talk if immediate actions are not taken to restore them. He added:
We still suffer stigmatization and our human rights are violated in many places. We are discriminated in hospitals and in society. We should be respected and applauded by society for coming out to state our status and not to be abused and discriminated against.
Discrimination and stigma continue to be major hindrances to the efforts of HIV testing, access to treatment, exposure of one’s status, and support services. Too often people with the HIV/AIDS virus suffer in silence when they could have lived longer and healthier lives if they felt a greater sense of acceptance.
PositiveSingles.com was created in hopes of supporting and inspiring people living with HIV/AIDS. Members of this site understand how difficult rejection and discrimination can be and are working to ensure people have a safe haven where they are accepted, informed and encouraged.
Members of this site often lend encouraging words to let people know that life goes on after a positive diagnosis. This community of like-minded individuals hopes to prevent the fear of living with HIV/AIDS and the stigma that often accompanies the possession of an STD. Here are some of the words of encouragement offered by members of this great community:
We have to stick together. Do not let yourself get down, keep moving. Take your meds; educate yourself and others by getting and sharing the facts.
You will never know what good you can do tomorrow if you give up today.
I am Me. I own my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes. Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. Don’t let this stop you from dreaming!
Everyone is terminally aids or no aids. Take Care of yourself.
This group of light-hearted individuals understands how important it is to be respected, loved and accepted. There are many testimonials of people who have found friends and support on the site. Positive Singles’ members are a diverse group with varied opinions but all united by their diagnosis. Members have expressed how happy they are to have met a number of great people, visited multiple forums to learn valuable information while gaining confidence so their diagnosis does not define them.
According to PositiveSingles.com the number of members on the site who are living with HIV/AIDS has risen by 20,000 in 2014. They believe the fast increase of membership could be a reflection of the worldwide rise in HIV cases. Positive Singles is reportedly the number one herpes dating site, but people living with a positive diagnosis is now up to 16 percent of its membership. It is the support of communities like this that encourage those with HIV to live beyond their diagnosis.
Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched HIV Treatment Works, which is a national awareness campaign. The goal of their efforts was to help those with a HIV positive diagnosis to stay positive while getting care, staying in care and living well. The HIV/AIDS community is living much longer than decades ago when the virus initially made its way into the lives of people across the globe.
The Ghana AIDS Commission said they are committed to promoting and encouraging the utilization of HIV services such as condom use, testing, counseling, the prevention of mother-to-child transmission and treatment services. The Commission has plans to intensify education towards a change in behavior in order to reduce new infections as well as vigorously campaign against discrimination and the stigma associate with HIV/AIDS.
In light of World AIDS Day, which is December 1, campaigns have been launched nationwide to help bring awareness to the virus and encourage those who have already been positively diagnosed. Just as the HIV/AIDS community has been given the privilege of longer life, they also want to be accepted in society as normal human beings.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)