• Today
    September 23

  • 09:32 PM

THE OPEN HAVERSACK: Living with HIV

Rhonda Blackman,

Added 21 April 2013

openhaversack

While visiting a patient in the hospital I met a lady in her 40s, living the last weeks of her life. She was in the last stages of living with HIV and she was dying. She asked for some of the snacks which I brought for the patient I was visiting. I readily gave her and we developed a rapport. In fact, she looked forward to my visits and I looked forward to sharing with her and engaging her in discourse. I shall call this lady Ann so as to protect her identity. Ann felt so comfortable with me that she shared part of her life sexual story. In fact she contracted the disease from her boyfriend, who was a seaman, while in her early twenties. She was first diagnosed 24 years ago. It was startling to discover that after becoming infected Ann, still looking healthy, continued to have unprotected sex. In her words you cannot tell by looking. She started to live a life of prostitution and ended up on drugs. Ann’s message is clear, you cannot tell if someone has the HIV virus by looking; AIDS doesn’t carry a face. There are many young adolescents who are promiscuous and who are engaging in risky sexual behaviours. This behaviour is not seen at the secondary school level alone but is filtering into the primary school where children as early as nine and ten are engaging in risky sexual behaviours. These young children are having unprotected sex. We are in an era where some teenagers do not see the importance of keeping their virginity. In fact they see sex as the “rite of passage” to adulthood. Oral and anal sex has become so popular that it is performed homosexually and heterosexually and is being used by girls as a means of protection against pregnancy. These activities have become the norm rather than the exception and what is alarming is that most children are not embarrassed to discuss their sexual escapades among their classmates and sometimes encourage them to try them out. The era of HIV and AIDS should change the attitude of children toward sex. However this is not the case. What is alarming is that although these children are educated and are aware of the virus and the methods and mode of transmission some believe it can never happen to them. They cannot imagine that they would be at risk of developing a life-threatening illness by having sex with their peers.  The reality is, there are children in the school system who are infected with the virus and this risky behaviour could lead to long term ill-health and eventually death. Statistics show that between 2008 and 2010 there were 20 new cases of children between the ages of 10-19 infected by HIV. Such behaviour is making the work of the HIV/AIDS commission more difficult since their message is one of abstinence for children who are below the age for sex. Remember AIDS doesn’t carry a face. You cannot tell by looking.  • Rhonda A. Blackman is an educator, a National Development Scholar and former President of the Early Childhood Association of Barbados Inc.

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