South Africa: Need to Tackle HIV/AIDS From a Humanistic Perspective
July 20, 2006
Leighton Macdonald, executive manager of Qualsa Health Risk Management, said stigma and discrimination still afflict those who are HIV-positive in South Africa, despite the enormity and maturity of the epidemic.
"However," Macdonald said, "increased participation in wellness initiatives which include HIV-related interventions leads to increased acceptance of HIV and AIDS being discussed and debated, helping to 'normalize' the disease." He added that such initiatives would make people more comfortable with disclosing their HIV status and getting treatment, and eventually result in HIV being viewed as a chronic, manageable illness such as high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma.
Macdonald noted that stigma against HIV/AIDS patients is unacceptable from a human rights viewpoint and will continue to undermine the effectiveness of workplace HIV risk-management programs. He said rising infection rates and low enrollment in employers' treatment efforts indicate that the objectives of such programs are not being met.
"HIV has been in existence for more than 20 years," Macdonald said. "It is no longer a new entity and should be considered alongside all other chronic, life-threatening illnesses when planning health-related interventions in the workplace and beyond. HIV prevention and testing should be delivered as a component of integrated initiatives."
Macdonald said HIV/AIDS should be discussed frequently, but in the context of a healthy lifestyle, rather than singling it out as a dread disease. "This would make the message more accessible to a more receptive target population that may be tired of hearing the same HIV message repetitively," he said. "As a result, the perception of HIV as a separate entity that requires a separate mindset is addressed over a period of time."
Business Day (Johannesburg)