It’s more than just a red ribbon
December 1 is usually known for World AIDS day the world over, and over the last 40 years, HIV/AIDS has evolved from a fatal disease to a manageable chronic illness with adequate treatment.
An estimated 25.7 million people are living with HIV in Africa, while 64% of people living with HIV have access to lifesaving antiretroviral therapy.
While scientists have made enormous strides with the development of antiretrovirals, hearing that you have tested positive for HIV can be traumatizing, and can take a toll on your emotional wellbeing, for starters you might feel ashamed, making you vulnerable and fearful.
According to Dr Brené Brown embracing vulnerability is your road to connecting with others. Shame makes people feel isolated, trapped, and powerless.
However, the power lies with you once you accept that you have been diagnosed with HIV, it is up to you to start building resilience to shame and this can be done using these four elements:
- Recognizing, naming, and understanding our shame triggers.
- Identifying external factors that led to the feelings of shame.
- Connecting with others to receive and offer empathy.
- Speaking about our feelings of shame with others.
As a family member or friend, there are a number of things that you can do to support a friend or loved one who has been recently diagnosed with HIV such as:
Being diagnosed with HIV is life-changing news. Listen to your loved one and offer your support.
Educate yourself about HIV: what it is, how it is transmitted, how it is treated, and how people can stay healthy while living with HIV.
Some people who are recently diagnosed may find it hard to take that first step to HIV treatment.
Support medication adherence:
Suggest to your loved ones places where they can get their medication such as a trusted pharmacy / local clinic and remind them that they can have their medication delivered.
Remember it is perfectly normal and understandable to feel vulnerable, now that you know your status, you can start your journey to treatment.
You may also feel isolated and alone, even if you have family and friends around you. Whatever you feel, you do not have to go through it alone. HIV is manageable, reach out to those who are coping and living with HIV. Choose to become resilient to shame and you start managing your trauma.
Dates to Remember
1 December – World AIDS Day
5 December – International Volunteer Day