Time for harsh truths about AIDS

Editorial, Normal

CHAIRMAN of the parliamentary Committee on HIV/AIDS Jamie Maxtone-Graham need not express embarrassment at the Government’s lack of support or its presumed ignorance.
If the Government is indeed ignorant of the issues as Mr Maxtone-Graham charges, then something major is amiss and it falls to Mr Maxtone-Graham’s parliamentary committee to point out to the public what the missing link is.
We cannot begin to imagine that it would have something to do with finances since we are quite certain there is more than enough money coming through various donors, as well as through the Government’s own budget for HIV and AIDS work.
It also cannot be for the lack of policy support since HIV/AIDS is now mentioned in almost all departmental policy white papers.
If anything, it just seems to us to be that the HIV/AIDS drive has lost steam.
It has lost steam because there are far too many things that are left unsaid and undone in this entire campaign.
There is much that needs doing that is not happening. The campaign is too fair, too lenient and too sympathetic.
A few harsh truths need saying and doing.
We will not walk down the condom path again but we cannot pin the future of a nation upon this latex. There must be more that this campaign can do. And there is more.
Some in the community feel, and quite rightly so, that there is far too much emphasis on HIV and AIDS, and far too little on other perennial issues which have plagued this country for far longer than AIDS has been around.
Health issues like malaria and pneumonia, two of the biggest killers in the country, have been virtually ignored.
Child and maternal health and welfare continue to be much talked about but very rarely acted on.
There are other pressing socio-economic issues that warrant urgent attention.
In the final analysis, many feel that HIV/AIDS is a disease of choice in the way some other diseases like malaria are not.
Except for transmission from mother to child or blood transfusion and spousal transmission, in many cases transmission occur through unrestrained, irresponsible and promiscuous behaviour of adults.
Yet the entire approach in HIV and AIDS management in the country has been sympathy and support rather than make some harsh truths known.
Nightclubs and what goes on in them have to be controlled because they are admittedly the hot beds for promiscuity and unprotected sex.
Brothels have to be either legalised so that they can be controlled through regulations and regular checks or more efforts be poured into policing illegal growth of the sex industry.
Let us not kid ourselves. Hotels, motels and even private homes operate as brothels today.
Unless they are better policed and sex workers offered decent conditions and protection, these are also the hot beds for the spread of STIs including HIV and AIDS.
Greater protection has to be offered to abused wives and, in a small number of cases, husbands.
Abusive spouses are also those who tend to abuse alcohol and inebriated people will normally lose control and go in for risky sexual adventures. This will most normally expose them to contracting HIV which they then spread to their spouses.
Abused spouses must be protected by law to at least demand protective sex or, at the very least, have a HIV status check regularly.
Within a family, should there be any suspicion about the HIV status of a husband or wife, the law should be able to compel one or the other or both to go in for a check.
This and more needs to be done about HIV and AIDS. It is time to stop pussyfooting around and to tackle this issue as it should be tackled.
Protect and look after the victims at all cost but to stop this virus from spreading as fast as it is doing, some real harsh truths have to come out. If such truths must hurt or frighten, then so be it.
Once upon a time, posters depicting gross pictures of mouth cancer would be posted at hospitals and billboards to discourage betelnut chewing. We do not see much of that kind of scare tactic happening in the HIV and AIDS campaign.