ONLY HUMAN: Joint approach a positive move
If there is one message people of all ages need to heed it is that in the age of AIDS we must be more responsible in our sexual behaviour.
The fact is that intimacy is not what it used to be since the advent of HIV/AIDS. That’s because each time someone has unprotected sex, they expose themselves to contracting the incurable virus.
This is despite the fact that the person with whom one had intercourse might have been one’s husband, wife or long-standing companion. As we have seen, there is no guarantee of safety as many of those infected through the years contracted it due to the secret liaisons with unfaithful partners.
As one who worked as an HIV/AIDS volunteer, both in the community as well as through journalism, I was able to meet, interact and assist those infected, several of whom shared their stories as a way of helping others.
One story that remains with me is of a 27-year-old Christian woman. After she had been married a short two years, her life was sent into a tailspin when her husband confessed on his dying bed that he knew he was HIV-positive long before they met and married.
So here was this woman who had seemingly done everything right in her life; that is, she had lived a Christian lifestyle, was not promiscuous and had saved her virtue for that special someone. And when she thought she had found that man, a young aspiring pastor, she married him before engaging in sex.
Most people would have understood if, in her anger at being deceived and betrayed by the only man she ever loved, she turned her back on God and sought to wreak revenge on men. But not her. Instead, she took the approach that she had an even greater responsibility to do the right thing.
Eight years after that eventful period in her life, she was adamant in an interview that infected people have a responsibility to be honest with their partners before they become intimate. At the same time, she said that many people contract the disease because they are “too fast”.
“If I was wicked, a lot of men could have had it today – believe me. As you said, I am attractive and the amount of guys that interfere with me, if I was just to give in to them . . . . But I can’t be like that.
“There are a lot of men who are married, yet still every skirt they see they are ready to jump under, but that person that they jumped at could damage their lives. They should remain with their partner and play it safe,” she advised back in 2003, a few years before her painful death.
At the time she also bemoaned the stigma and the high level of discrimination against those known to be infected.
Today, her message is as relevant as it was then, demonstrating why it is so critical that our leaders put up a united front to combat this disease.
Such an approach is necessary because Barbados can ill afford to continue losing so many people to AIDS in the productive prime of their lives.
This has implications for the economy, such as high medical costs for a variety of opportunistic illnesses and reduced manpower, particularly of skilled labour. Then there are the disease’s psychosocial costs that impact relations between the infected, the affected and others in communities and can lead to strife, violence and homelessness.
I was therefore proud of parliamentarians’ common purpose on this issue last Tuesday in the House of Assembly as they debated a resolution to endorse a bipartisan approach to working with communities to prevent HIV/AIDS.
Those who spoke demonstrated their grasp of the gravity of the situation and their willingness to play their part in creating an atmosphere of understanding to stamp out stigma and discrimination. If their words are matched by action, this country will be well served.
Hopefully, that mature bipartisan approach will be extended, too, to fighting this country’s worsening economy.