Is World AIDS Day worth celebrating?
Timothy Bengo studies mass communication at Malawi Institute of Journalism. He is the first member of Nzotheka, a youth club for HIV positive youths in Lilongwe, Malawi, who started his studies at a university. He is currently doing an internship as a reporter at Yoneco Radio in Lilongwe.
Sex og Politikk works closely with our sister organisation in Malawi, Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM), and as a part of the collaboration supports FPAM’s youth club, Nzotheka.
In Malawi, HIV/AIDS has claimed a lot of lives since the time it was discovered in the 80s. It has made a lot of people vulnerable, due to the fact that many of us were orphaned and that we are still feeling the pinch of this pandemic.
Today, according to a report by AVERT, 10.3% of the population in Malawi is living with HIV. Young people account for over 50% of new HIV infections.
It is with this background that for many young people in Malawi, World AIDS Day is not something to celebrate. This day reminds us of the atrocities and tragedies the pandemic has taken us through, when many of us have lost our parents and loved ones.
Ongoing stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV has been a thorn in the flesh of the efforts in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Many young people have died because of the stigma and discrimination and this is a cause for concern.
Many people in Malawi still face different forms of discrimination in their schools, communities and even in the work places due to their HIV status.
HIV prevalence rate for young people in Malawi is also still on the rise. Young people make up to 60% of the national population and there must be more interventions to protect the future. An investment in HIV prevention programs and much advocacy on comprehensive sexuality education is necessary.
Like in every other country, the World AIDS Day in Malawi is celebrated as a national event, with traditional dances, speeches and testimonies, but for people living with HIV this is a day of reflection and building of hope for tomorrow. On this day we remember those who have died of HIV and AIDS.
The reality on the ground is that though many have died, including our parents, brothers and sisters, we have a great hope for life, accomplishment of our dreams and all sorts of achievements, as long as we as a society keep the promise to work towards the goal – those who are HIV positive will avoid re-infection and infecting the others with HIV.
An HIV free generation is possible.