Knowledge is the best weapon in the fight against HIV discrimination

Publié: 11 décembre 2012 20:49 CET

In the Caribbean, Haiti has the highest rate of HIV infection. Fortunately, due to many international organizations and their HIV and AIDS prevention programmes the prevalence of the disease has gone from 2.2 per cent to 1.9 per cent between 2011 and 2012, according to the Ministry of Public Health and Population.

World AIDS Day, which is celebrated on 1 December each year, was another opportunity to raise awareness regarding HIV and AIDS. The Haiti Red Cross Society held several activities to reach out to the population on topics such as prevention, awareness, and treatment.

This year’s slogan for World AIDS Day was ‘Let’s work together to fight against AIDS and all forms of discrimination.’ As part of a seminar on AIDS held on Friday, 30 November, several people living with HIV gave their testimonials about how they have been living with the disease.

Judith Jean Baptiste was one of the participants who came to share her testimony. Judith  has been living with HIV for nine years. When she was first diagnosed, the only thought that came to her was that she was going to die.

“When I first found out I was HIV positive I just wanted to kill myself. I was 16 years old and still in school, and didn’t want to have to go through the rest of my life with this disease and what people would say about me when they found out.”

She didn’t seek treatment and had seemingly given up the fight and resigned herself to the fact that AIDS  would claim her life. However, with the help of her family and friends, she came to the decision that her life was not over. She began taking antiretrovirals and regained her health. She also became a Red Cross volunteer, using her experience to encourage people to protect themselves and to get tested.

Part of the prevention messages spread by the National Society are those urging the population to get tested whether they feel they have been exposed to HIV or not. This way if the person is infected, then they can begin treatment as soon as possible.

“I would encourage everyone to get tested. Because it’s always better to know,” Judith said.

The Haiti Red Cross Society has also been campaigning against stigmatization and discrimination against people living with HIV. In Haiti, the stigma of being labelled as someone with HIV or AIDS is one of the greatest reasons people do not want to get tested or tell people that they are HIV positive. There is real fear of being rejected by their family and friends.

It is very important that people with HIV feel that they are accepted within their communities and that the fact that they are HIV positive won’t result in their being completely shut out. Through education and building awareness on HIV transmission and prevention, discrimination and stigmatization can be eradicated.

“We are all affected by AIDS whether we have it or not,” Judith said.