“The global HIV/AIDS epidemic is an unprecedented crisis that requires an unprecedented response. In particular it requires solidarity — between the healthy and the sick, between rich and poor, and above all, between richer and poorer nations. We have 30 million orphans already. How many more do we have to get, to wake up?” The words of one of my favourite men, Kofi Annan, ring true – especially this week in Aid for AIDS week. This disease not only causes mortality, but also provides a source for significant societal discrimination toward the victim, it affects the economic growth of a developing nation, it leaves orphans, and perpetuates a cycle of poverty and illness that in the 21st century should not belong.
In 2010, 34 million people worldwide were recognised, as having AIDS – and the cases were not just present in developing nations; First World Nations suffer as well. AIDS is a sweeping pandemic that has a snowball affect on everything. Between its initial recognition in 1981, and 2009, AIDS had caused 30 million deaths, 66 per cent of which occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. A country that cannot help itself; needs outside help. It needs a big brother to come along and push it in the right direction, provide some wisdom and education, and stop it from making bad decisions. As it stands, in a country without proper nutrition, health care and medicine available, people continue to fall victim to this disease.
In the summer of 2010, an orphanage in southern India on a hill took me in to work over the break. Of 35 children who lived there, one in 5 had AIDS. Every fifth child whose hair I plaited for school, or whose homework I corrected, who I made friends with had AIDS, even one of the babies. As a struggling orphanage trying to gather enough funds to send each child to school, and ensure that they had enough to eat, it was too hard to afford effective and sufficient medical treatment for their diseases. AIDS has a vast impact on society, both in terms of the illness and as a source of societal discrimination. The children at the home were in the orphanage because they were shunned from their own communities for having the disease; as AIDS carriers, there could be no marriage prospects for them, and therefore no way out of poverty for the family.
One need only do some research into the counterculture of the 1960s in the Castro District of San Francisco to discover the discrimination and hate toward homosexual men for the narrow-minded belief that AIDS came from them, and allegedly they continued to perpetuate the disease among society. FACT: Homosexual men and drug users ARE NOT the only people affected by AIDS, many of them, do not even have it! I would like to be optimistic, and think that our generation is a group of welcoming, gracious, accepting and loving people free from judgment and the tendency to hate things beyond our control, however the HIV/AIDS pandemic is still the cause of significant societal discrimination.
There are so many misconceptions in developing countries about curing the disease, one of which disgusts me, and needs to be addressed urgently. Having sexual intercourse with a virgin: it CANNOT and WILL NOT cure AIDS. This is a both a common misconception and a common practice in developing worlds where the diagnosis and subsequent mortality rate of the disease is high. Not only does the practice not cure AIDS, but also it perpetuates the infection of the disease in a clean, innocent person. By logical extension this person’s life is now ruined, and he or she becomes a statistic in the AIDS epidemic.
To reflect on a lecture during one of the United Nations classes earlier this year, we tend to look more at the damage done, and the statistics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic; let’s instead choose to focus on the victims of the disease, and the ways to overcome, or at least make an attempt to help the lives of people living with AIDS with no way to help themselves.
Maggie Munn is a Law and International Relations student at Bond University. Maggie has a passion for human rights and issues of social justice.