For the 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide, HIV/AIDS prevention, stigma and discrimination reduction, access to testing and medicines is essential 365 days a year, not only on December 1st.
To work on HIV prevention we must break down stigma and to do that we must first break down our own stigma.
Therefore Youth Delegate Kathrine Flaate shared a personal story with the newly formed Red Cross Youth Circle at Shree Tribhuwan Higher Secondary School on World AIDS Day. “Marking the global awareness day, I shared the story of the boy with the blue balloon, and how I myself overcame my own misconception regarding HIV. I choose to share the story because in the work on reducing stigma and discrimination, we must first overcome our own misconceptions about HIV, says Kathrine. “If we are to work on changing other people´s attitudes toward people living with HIV, then we must start with our own attitudes. Only then can we genuinely be part of breaking down stigma and stop discrimination”.
As Red Cross Youth volunteers HIV/AIDS prevention is something we work on through spreading knowledge and awareness, among other things. As youth volunteers contributing towards reducing stigma and discrimination, to again increase social inclusion of fellow human beings living with HIV, we must begin with assessing our own attitudes.
Let´s start with crushing some false myths:
It is false that HIV is transmitted by playing with the same toys.
It is wrong that HIV is transmitted by using the same toilet.
It is wrong that HIV is transmitted from drinking from the same glass.
It is wrong that HIV is transmitted by kissing.
It is also wrong that HIV is transmitted by hugging.
These are all false myths that lead to stigma and discrimination towards fellow human beings living with HIV. These false myths also contribute to hindering people to get tested.
HIV is not only transmitted through sexual acts, it can also be transmitted through blood transfusions, sharing of unclean needles and mother-to-child transmission.
Increase your own knowledge to break down your own assumptions by checking out the World Health Organization´s 10 facts about HIV/AIDS.
In Nepal the numbers of HIV infections are going down, from 40,723 in 2013 to 39,249 in 2014 according to the UNAIDS Country Progress Report Nepal from 2015. The numbers of AIDS related deaths are reducing due to access to ART medicines. This is positive. At the same time as the numbers are stabilizing overall at an estimated 0.20%, the transmission rates are increasing among some population groups. Therefore HIV prevention work cannot stop, as this stabilizing trend can only continue in a direction of decline when more people gain access to medicines and more people get access to information and education on sexual health. This includes reducing stigma so that persons will get tested as “an estimated 40% of people with HIV or over 14 million people remain undiagnosed and don´t know of their infection status” in the world, writes The WHO.
To reach zero HIV/Transmissions, Zero HIV related deaths, zero discrimination, access to medication then we must continuously work on breaking barriers all year round, not only on December 1st. Start with crushing myths and spreading information among your own friends.