Tha Age of AIDS
In the midst of a bizarre political climate, reality television and sporting tournaments I cannot help but notice that one of the biggest issues in South Africa seems to be fading away from the national agenda. It has been quite a while since I have heard any public figure that is on good social standing talk about the issue of HIV/AIDS. Locally we have one of the biggest epidemics of the disease and up until recently it was quite romantic for politicians to use the disease as an entry point into the sympathetic hearts of a gullible public. Fiery orators would at will spray their diction articulating the importance of “something being done” but never really outlining what that thing is. I am perhaps amongst the few that still remain concerned that as a nation we seem to have moved on. The rhetoric has died down, the scrutinize ad campaigns are not as frequent as they use to be and the reality of this disease is not longer shown even on Soul City.
It seems that the HIV and AIDS much like crime are fast becoming something that we have been conditioned to accept. We have adapted a conformist mindset that identifies these diseases as just part and parcel of our reality. This is particularly worrying because it will lead to complacency. In South Africa many people do not report things like crime because they feel that it’s a norm and nothing will be done, if we allow HIV/AIDS to slip of the national agenda than we run the risk of doing the same. The more accepting we are of these diseases as our everyday reality the less likely our leaders are to take any significant action towards stemming the pandemic.
But the question stretches much further than just government policy about condoms or even ARV’s. I am always surprised that for a nation that has one of the highest rates of the disease we seem to be investing very little in the way of trying to find some sort of a cure or vaccine. I am yet to hear of any local institution or fund that is solely dedicated to researching this critical area. At the risk of sounding Pan-Africanist, South Africa is lacking initiative and is instead waiting for western solutions to an reality that Africans are facing daily.
Part if the reason why it is so hard to talk about this disease in more frank terms is because of the stigma around the whole thing. It’s always easy to be cosmopolitan and say things like “we have to be loving and accepting” but once you see a person with this disease wither away then and only then will you understand that this is much more real than Nandipha on Isidingo. That is why I have always expressed my admiration or someone like Kabelo who was willing to take a live HIV test. It is people like this who let us know that we are all at risk that can play a pivotal role in breaking down the walls of this stigma.
This has been a year of anarchy. The lesbian and gay community locally have showcased their unity, people of all religions sympathies rallied together during the Arab spring, residents locally took to the streets to showcase their anger. I think now more than ever organizations like the Treatment action Campaign need to regroup, engage directly with other community organizations and do what is necessary to ensure that once again HIV/AIDS become part and parcel of national debates