The Sustainable Development Goal 3 aims at ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all ages.
According to UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 35% of countries with available data, over 50% of people report having discriminatory attitudes towards people living with HIV. In many rural communities, social issues increase the risk of HIV infection making it difficult to tackle the global HIV epidemic effectively. Stigma and discrimination still persist.
A 14 year old youth from Botswana narrates his story about how living with HIV in the rural areas of Ramotswa has been like. Below is his story:
“I am seen at church almost every Sunday asking God many questions. Wondering if I could be healed from the disease. I was diagnosed with HIV when I was still an innocent baby. It was transmitted from my mother when she was still pregnant with me. I have a lot of questions that only she can provide a satisfactory answers for. I was told how I got the disease but still fail to acknowledge and accept my status. My mother was not well educated and was young when she had me. She didn’t earn a lot of money which made it a struggle to go to town to fetch her treatment. Even though she was HIV positive, she continued to breastfeed me as a baby.
After her death, I was put on treatment. I take my medicine with so much difficulty as I find the drugs too bitter to swallow. I am in search of my father who disappeared after finding out why my mother died. At school I often decline invitations to play by the other kids because I feel too weak. I worry about fainting or get myself injured. I understand that my immune system is too fragile, so I shouldn’t be careless with my health.
My grandmother always listens to my cries and assures me that I will be fine, and tells me how much she wishes she could take the depression away from me. My grades are not that perfect and are affected especially when I get sick. At home, those who know about my status treat me like an outcast. No one wants to share their things with me, I use my own things that nobody wants to use. It agonizes me that I am the only one with this disease as my siblings are HIV negative and so I am the one seen taking a pill every day and night.
Fetching my treatment puts a strain on my grandmother, not only because of her old age but also because she has to part with part of her small pension stipend to transport me. She often has to borrow money from the members of the community for my transport and when they ask her what she needs it for, she tells them the truth in order to get help for me. Unfortunately people always start staring at me like I am strange. I realize that people still need to be educated about health issues, especially communicable diseases. At school we are told how people contract HIV and people often assume that I got it through sexual intercourse and think it is my fault. When people see me with girls, they think I am sleeping with them.
Early last year (2016), a clinic was built for the youth in my village. The clinic is functioning and the government has started working on projects to help the youth in my area. But big hospitals and clinics do not have a conducive environment where young people like myself, can easily access and express themselves without constraints. With the clinic in my village, nurses are equipped with skills and have approachable demeanor. I cannot talk to my grandmother about certain issues and it is convenient for me to approach my local clinic to get help. I accepting and acknowledging my positive life is still a process for me.”