Bots: Discrimination on disclosure of status

Bots: Discrimination on disclosure of status

Date: January 10, 2022
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By Keamogetse Motone,

Gaborone, 1 December: Botswana remains one of the countries which is hard hit by HIV and AIDS. Although there are many ways people can live with the virus, some people still find it hard to live positively with HIV and to disclose their HIV status to their partners as well as their families. While some generally are afraid to be associated with HIV some are afraid of dealing with stigma and discrimination. Which is the main reason people still find it hard to disclose their status.

Even though disclosure can assist in the battle against HIV and AIDS, it has a dire potential to awaken stigma and discrimination not only on those infected  but also those affected by HIV. This in turn may lead to suicide, cyber bullying, emotional distress, depression and more.

A report by Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), noted that disclosure has the potential to de-stigmatise HIV and AIDS by way of normalizing HIV and AIDS as a health condition like any other. “Public figures, influencers and celebrities may choose to disclose their HIV status with the view to address stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and this should be celebrated and encouraged,” the report further said.

Neo Nono Simon an HIV Advocate at Botswana Networks for People Living with HIV (BONEPWA), who has been living with HIV for 14 years said disclosing HIV status is very important.“Sometimes when you are not feeling well and you are taken to the hospital, your caretakers must be able to know your other underlying conditions. They should be able to answer doctors accordingly,” she explained.

“The benefit of disclosing your HIV status is that you are also able to live in peace with your family members. You don’t have to hide yourself when it is time for you to take your medication. You don’t have to hide yourself to do your regular check ups. The good thing about it is that you will be given the moral support you need.”

Simon further said no one is forced to disclose their status. It is something people have to do voluntarily. That even if someone disclose to them, they must understand that they can’t disclose the information to anyone else.

According to her, people are generally not as accepting when people disclose their HIV status. Which is the main reason people still hold back when it comes to disclosing their HIV status.

Therefore she stated that before disclosing people should understand that not everyone will be willing to accept them. This is because in Botswana HIV in Botswana is still viewed from the perception of immorality.

“People still assume that being HIV positive means someone was having many sexual partners. Forgetting that people contact HIV through different ways. So before disclosing people should be emotionally ready to be stigmatized. Some will want to discriminate you. It is still hard for people to admit that there are people living with HIV in our midst,” she said.

“This therefore, should not discourage anyone from disclosing. Out of the 390 000 who are living with HIV in Botswana, I want to  see at least 100 000 people disclosing their HIV status. As a lot of people will see that many people are living with HIV. But if we are still concealing these issues then we still have a long way to go.”

One of the reasons she decided to go public about her HIV status  was to try and normalize living with HIV. She further stated that she is no way encouraging people to get infected with HIV but rather trying to change the mindsets of people.

Ditshupo Phiri, a 32 year old man who is one of the young people who made his status known publicly started talking more on issues of HIV after realizing that lot of people are struggling to accept and adhere.

“Disclosing your status to your partner strengthen a level of trust. It helps both of you to make wise choices on your sexual issues. Mostly disclosing your status to your partner in a way you are protecting him or her. As now he or she will be aware of the situation and will have to take the right measures by having protected sex at all times. As well as supporting you by going with you for appointments and reminding you to take medication on time. If you truly accept yourself it’s easier for other people to follow through,” he said.

“Accepting yourself is very crucial. If you have done so it is very easy to adhere and that alone can inspire others. If we all do this we will be able to protect others and set a good example to society.”

In addition  he highlighted is that when people accept themselves they are simply saying no to more HIV infections.

Bakang Garebatho who has also went public with his HIV status said he decided to disclose because he accepted his HIV status.

“I disclosed just so that I can use my life as an example that HIV is a condition which should not determine our way of living. The only difference is that I take medication everyday and that’s it. I live a normal life, I can be happy, I can be in relationships,” he said.

“This helps people to not deal with this on their own. There are times that we need assurance that whatever we are going through we are not alone. It is actually one of.the reasons why I disclosed my status. It is for those who feel like they are on the dark and they do not know who they can talk to.”

Stigma and discrimination are one of the major hindrances to disclosing. Garebatho said stigmatization cuts deep into their souls.

“Having to read something negative about what we live in is just discouraging. Which is why some people find it hard to accept themselves. They know very well that they may not fit in the society. People may not consider us normal. It is what we feed our mind that kills us,” he said.

Disclosing ones status still remains vital in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Although stigma and discrimination persists, it is important to accept yourself and be honest to your partner, families and loved ones.

Keamogetse Motone is a journalist from Botswana. This story is part of the GL News Service Sixteen Days of Activism News series.

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