Shedding light on HIV/AIDS
In June Dunboyne college student Sarah Brazil travelled to South Africa, where she is working with children affected by HIV/AIDS. Here she discusses her campaign to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS that exist not only in the developing world, but here too.
It is true to say that we take many aspects of our life for granted, and one factor we tend to take advantage of regularly is of great importance. Life. We’re all guilty of this. Growing up I was uneducated to the plight of many, although I knew it existed and that it was wrong. The developing world is suffering endlessly from things that should be and can be avoided, cared for and even demolished.
HIV/AIDS is one of these prominent and devastating issues that can rip families apart. Take a mother from her child, or vice versa. It needs to be stopped. We must educate the population of developing countries in family planning and safety. That being said, we must inform those in Ireland of the existence of HIV at home.
Studies show that up to a third of people in Ireland living with HIV/AIDs are not actually aware that they have contracted the illness. We need to spread the warning to people, even at a young age, that this illness can be prevented. We must also help those already diagnosed. We must remind them that hope and life are still at reach.
There is life after being diagnosed with HIV, although the stigma that accompanies the illness can create a larger problem facing the individual. Many spirits can be crushed under the weight of fear and social judgment that comes hand in hand with this illness. I believe the issue of HIV/AIDS is all the more devastating as it can be avoided through educating and informing people of the importance of safety and looking after ourselves. Even still, those who are living with the illness must remember that they still must cherish life.
My trip to South Africa is not only a volunteering opportunity, but a chance to be the voice of the people in Africa, those suffering from the plight of an incurable disease, those who are worried about the present and afraid of the future. Dealing with something like HIV/AIDS can be hard at the best of times, I cannot imagine what it would be like in an area that is already suppressed by the social issues of poverty, crime and hunger.
This is not just a trip. This is a vocation. On returning home I will act as a representative to those people. I will help them be heard. However, we mustn’t forget the existence of HIV/AIDS in Ireland. By spreading awareness of the dangers that Africa are facing, I may impact the opinions and ideas of Irish citizens as they evaluate their own personal lives and experiences.
AIDS is not a third world issue. It is global. It is international. It IS avoidable! To dater there have been 6,287 people in Ireland diagnosed with HIV since the 1980s, however the actual number of people living with HIV is not known. In the period 1982-98, 650 cases of AIDS were reported in Ireland and 332 people died from AIDS-related diseases. In 2010 the CUH were diagnosing 2-3 people a week with HIV ranging from 18 to 70 years of age. In America it has been said that 80% of Americans with HIV/AIDS don’t know they have it.
With these worrying statistics the importance of responsibility and safety on our parts is crucial. This being said, the values of acceptance and understanding are also vital.
I was lucky enough to meet wonderful people at the Open Heart House in Dublin recently. The members of this organization make up a small fraction of the Irish citizens living with HIV/AIDS. As I sat down eating scones and listening to interesting people, I completely forgot about the issues that the people who seemed so bright and bubbly were facing. It stood as a beacon for community, a place where hope is fostered and life is cherished and celebrated. An example for us all about the values of strength, will and mutual respect.