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Slice of Life
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
ANYONE is vulnerable and needs information, especially those who think that they cannot be infected.
For over 30 years, the HIV and AIDS pandemic killed more than 30 million people. Treatments are available but stigma persists, making it difficult for people to get themselves tested and for the community to accept those who are living with HIV and AIDS.
While an HIV diagnosis is not a death sentence as it was considered years before, the collective inability to understand HIV and AIDS to be able to remove the stigma remains to be a stumbling block in defeating it.
Lack of information makes it impossible for individuals and the community to act responsibly in preventing infection. The traditional and unequal social gender roles also make it difficult for women to negotiate for safer sex with their partners.
Despite the glaring increase in the number of cases, there is an absence of a national policy on reproductive health which can lay down the framework in responding to the pandemic, including educating the public on HIV and AIDS.
How do we reduce the vulnerability to HIV? Sexual behavior, identity and gender are complex and need to be understood.
Access to tests and treatments will make it possible to not only prolong the life of someone infected with HIV, but also help reduce the likelihood that the person will infect his or her partners.
Extra efforts are needed to change attitudes so that all individuals including the hard to reach groups get the same opportunity to be informed about HIV and get access to treatment, care and support. Proven behavior change interventions and prevention technologies will only produce positive impact if they take place in settings with social justice and human rights, free of stigma and discrimination.
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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 03, 2013.