Of con­ceal­ment and de­nial

Sun.Star Baguio - - Opinion -

DE­SPITE the ef­fort to rec­tify mis­con­cep tions and myths, the stigma and dis­crimi na­tion on those in­fected with HIV and Aids in the com­mu­nity con­tinue to per­sist which fur­ther cre­ate a bar­rier to pre­vent in­fec­tion and pro­vide ad­e­quate care, treat­ment, and sup­port.

Among those in­fected, there is dif­fi­culty to come out within their im­me­di­ate fam­ily due to the fear of be­ing judged and be cut off from the pri­mary unit by which sup­port. Among em­ploy­ees, the fear of be­ing rep­ri­manded and re­moved from their work. The con­ceal­ment is startling in that it en­cour­ages de­nial that re­sults to de­lay in ac­tion. Added to this, the per­cep­tion that not ev­ery­one is prone to HIV and AIDS.

The vis­i­bil­ity of HIV sur­vivors will­ing to talk and ed­u­cate the pub­lic in the open has opened the space for the suc­cess­ful mo­bi­liza­tion of com­mu­ni­ties to re­spond to the epi­demic. Dolzura Cortez and Sarah Jane Salazar were few of the faces of the HIV and Aids cam­paign ini­ti­ated by the Depart­ment of Health (DOH). It was through their gen­eros­ity to share their ex­pe­ri­ence that the sen­si­tiv­ity of the pub­lic was im­proved. They were the faces of the cam­paign who braved through the storm.

How­ever, years later and with much lesser vis­i­bil­ity of and fo­cus in the cam­paign, those liv­ing with HIV are still seen as a prob­lem and the com­mu­nity, dis­con­nected in the so­lu­tion.

Stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion is an af­front to hu­man rights. It cur­tails the right of peo­ple liv­ing with HIV to be able to man­age and ob­tain qual­ity treat­ment and care. While some lo­cal gov­ern­ment units like Davao City has put in place a health in­ter­ven­tion, in­clud­ing es­tab­lish­ing the sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive clinic to pro­vide free coun­sel­ing and test­ing, only a few of the gen­eral pop­u­lace are en­cour­aged to sub­mit for test­ing due to the fear of dis­clo­sure.

It is not only on the lack of un­der­stand­ing of the ill­ness and mis­con­cep­tions on how it is trans­mit­ted that stigma is en­hanced but also to the lack of ac­cess to ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment, as well as on the han­dling of HIV and Aids cases, like the dis­clo­sure of the HIV sta­tus of a drug sus­pect ap­pre­hended in 2017 dur­ing a drug bust.

The ex­is­tence of high-pro­file cases shows the need to strengthen and im­prove on the doc­u­men­ta­tion of cases of those liv­ing with HIV be­ing de­nied with their right to health­care, work, and ed­u­ca­tion, among oth­ers. There is a need to fur­ther mon­i­tor and im­prove the stan­dard of care, ac­cess to HIV test­ing and treat­ment, as well as be­hav­ioral chal­lenges among ser­vice providers to en­sure con­sent, con­fi­den­tial­ity, and sen­si­tiv­ity in the han­dling of cases.

Stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion are fu­eled with the omis­sion and fail­ure to not only fully im­ple­ment poli­cies but also with the re­fusal to dis­cuss HIV and Aids, in­clud­ing its so­cial and eco­nomic im­pli­ca­tions. It is re­flected in the lack of doc­u­men­ta­tion and data­base among gov­ern­ment agen­cies tasked to pro­mote the health and hu­man rights of the per­sons liv­ing with HIV and Aids.

It is glar­ing on the in­abil­ity of the com­mu­nity to col­lec­tively re­spond to the epi­demic. The con­ceal­ment and de­nial need to end.

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