AIDS: thousands affected but the disease is still not being taken seriously


December has always been considered a month of rejoicing . It has the almost universal Christmas which, though christian, has become so commercialised that even non-christians celebrate it somehow, especially by buying presents for loved ones or business associates. Yet December l is a world-wide day of mourning. As AIDS Day it has united the world in thinking about the most dreaded disease.

People unite to seek a solution to the virus. They also accuse and counter-accuse each other of spreading it. But what is even more frustrating, tantalising and flabbergasting is the fact that despite the developed world’s advanced technology they have failed to find a cure for the disease over almost a decade of experimentation.

Hopes of finding a cure were raised with the introduction of AZT and Kemron but they have now been dashed. And it looks the longer scientists take to find a cure the more relaxed and carefree people become. Some young people who are most vulnerable to the disease are now once again arguing that the disease is a myth. They are claiming that if scientists can make a space shuttle and even spend days in space why can’t they find a cure for a single disease in more than 10 years?

Moreover, it appears, the Aids campaign has lost its impact. Perhaps it is because of the secretive nature of who has the disease. People have it but they don’t want to talk about it. So far those publicly announced to have died of Aids are people like singers, former or current soldiers or their wives. These are not role models because their lifestyle is generally regarded to be some type of high-life, thriving on beer and drugs.

There have been very few acknowledgements of church leaders, politicians, doctors, teachers or community leaders — — people who are regarded as role models in society – – having died of the disease. This would trigger something.

Recent figures released by the National Aids Coordinator clearly indicate that people are simply not listening or taking the disease seriously. Dr Evaristo Marowa says there are now about 40 000 people with AIDS and not just 14 032 as officially acknowledged. He says the number of people infected has increased to 676 000 with 131 00 new cases this year alone. What is even more disturbing is that in seven years the number of people with Aids is expected to increase to 500 000.

Because the campaign seems to have failed some business concerns are beginning to feel the pinch. They have therefore decided to take steps which might in the end make people change their behaviour. But then they will come under increasing attack from those who while seeking methods of curbing the disease argue that those already infected should not be discriminated against.

Most insurance companies, for example, are now insisting on Aids declaration status and blood tests before approving life policies. Strong sentiments are being expressed against this practice because some people claim that insurance is, and should be, a risky business so there is no need for these companies to insist on carrying out HIV tests.

These people go on to argue that while it is a sure case that once a person has developed the dreaded disease it is almost certain that person will die, a very healthy person can equally die, even sooner, say through an accident.

Some multi-national companies are carrying out random H1V tests and when they retrench those affected are sacked first. This has had one adverse implication that most of workers are now generalising that whoever is retrenched from such organisations is HIV positive. This carries with it a social stigma that can be traumatic.

The situation is not being made any easier by the current drought and economic crisis because some experts believe that while Aids is primarily caused through sexual intercourse, through infected blood transfusion or infected mother to child, social factors are also creeping in.

Poverty and joblessness are forcing more people to rely on sex as a means of earning a living. Social poverty and underdevelopment in communities, these experts argue, leads people taking sex as a form of social “relief” while lack of accommodation also contributes quite a lot to moral decay which in turn results in uncontrolled sex.

It is perhaps the social reasons that are driving more and more people to ignore the national Aids campaign because they are already suffering enough. What more can they lose unless their social status is uplifted.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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