“I can’t change my status but you can change your attitude,” is one of the slogans for this year’s World AIDS Day theme of ‘Getting to Zero discrimination’.
World Aids Day is celebrated on 1 December every year to raise awareness of the HIV epidemic. There are over 35 million people living with HIV globally.
Rhodes University staff members commemorated World AIDS Day yesterday (2 December) at the Nelson Mandela Dining Hall. The programme included a variety of speakers who all seemed to have one message but with many practical examples to highlight their message.
The guest speaker Mr Alex Semba, Programme Manager supporting HEAIDS programmes in universities addressed the audience.
Speaking at the event, Mr Semba called on those in attendance to hug or touch someone next to them, before asking whether they knew the status of the person they just touched.
“Sometimes we speak the right words but sometimes it’s not exactly what we do,” he said.
Discrimination is a big factor as to why many individuals do not get tested or share their status.
“HIV-positive individuals may be scared to share their status because of the way people around them behave,” said Mr Semba.
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“We know the message of prevention yet each and every year we still have infections,” he said. He partly attributes this to the fact that our communities are small so when people talk everyone seems to know.
“Today is the day we need to think back on how we are treating HIV-positive people, are we encouraging them to be healthy?” asked Mr Semba.
He pleaded with the staff to know their status, but not only their HIV-status. The First Things First Campaign that runs at all Higher Education Facilities each year encourages individuals to be screened for TB, check their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
“Today think about your health, think about the other person you have hugged and let’s look forward to helping each other,” he concluded.
Ms Unathi Lugongolo a TAC representative encouraged everyone to know their status to prevent reinfections.
“You cannot love someone when you keep giving them something that is not good for them,” she said.
Rhodes University Organisational Development Specialist, Mr Schalk van der Merwe, thanked the Institutional HIV and AIDS Officer, Mr Thandi Mzizi and the peer educators who worked tirelessly this year.
“We have programmes but don’t forget the small things, a smile, a hug and care. Let there be hope and caring from the heart for our programmes,” added Mr van der Merwe.
Sister Natasha Douglas, from Rhodes Health Care Centre, reiterated this holistic approach to HIV/AIDS care.
“We are trying to move away from treating HIV alone but rather to treat it as a chronic illness and to encourage everyone with chronic illnesses, blood pressure, diabetes and HIV to maintain a good weight and healthy eating habits,” shared Sister Douglas.
Water and fruit were served as healthy refreshments in a bid to encourage healthy lifestyles.
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