As the world works to end AIDS, more and more Zambian young people who are HIV positive begin to openly talk about their status.
It is an effort to discourage populations from discriminating people living with HIV as well as encourage those infected to seek help without feeling ashamed, the Xinhua news agency reported.
One of the Zambians who have come out to publicly state that they are HIV positive is 29-year-old Precious Kaniki, a resident of Zambia’s capital Lusaka.
Kaniki who tested positive for HIV about 14 years ago explained that she had challenges accepting her condition because of what society perceived people living with the virus.
She explained that some young people have been dumped by their partners after they revealed their HIV status. There are also individuals living with HIV who are discriminated against by their own family members whereby in a home set up, one is forced to use separate cutlery.
“These are some of the things that compelled me to begin to talk openly about my status,” kaniki said.
She added that confronting issues head on has greatly helped many youths in Zambia and beyond to take positive action towards the further spread of HIV as evidenced from media reports.
“It is good that many young people living with HIV have taken the step to speak about their status publicly. This has greatly helped to dispel misinformation around the topic,” Kaniki further added.
And according to a youth rights advocate, many more HIV positive youths are openly talking about their status because they have realized that doing so encourages other members of society to appreciate the fact that having HIV is not a death sentence.
Those skeleton-like images of people with AIDS from the 1980s and early 1990s do not exist today because people living with HIV are living much longer, and healthier lives, thanks to antiretroviral therapy, said Oswald Chisenga, director at Phenomenal Positive Youths Zambia, an entity that advances the needs of youths living with HIV in Zambia.
Thirty-two-year-old Chisenga who is HIV positive said it is encouraging to see many young people talking freely about being HIV positive noting that this has greatly helped to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS.
He revealed youths from a number of countries in southern as well as East African regions are openly talking about their HIV status through the various media platforms run by Phenomenal Positive Youths Zambia.
These young people are helping change the narrative of HIV/AIDS and letting populations see that HIV positive people have a lot to offer society, he said.
Chisenga was, however, quick to state that while Phenomenal Positive Youths Zambia supports those who choose to go public about their status, it does not compel them to do so.
“It is a choice that one has to make on their own after much consideration. Our job is to give them the necessary support,” he said.
Chisenga further stressed that his organization is working to ensure that youths who are HIV negative maintain their negative status so as to ensure the realization of the global goal of ending AIDS by 2030.
According to UNAIDS data 2019, there are about 1.2 million people living with HIV in Zambia.