Ladies (and gentlemen!), now that I have your attention, let’s enjoy this break from regular kinky curly programming.
It has barely been a week since the unfortunate terrorist attacks in Paris. Between the news of the raids in the city and Europe generally, more terrorist attacks here in Yola, Nigeria, the political shenanigans and all else that has been going on in the world, you may have heard about Charlie Sheen’s announcement. The former Two and a Half Men actor has shared something with the world. Charlie is living with HIV. He has known this for about four years. His financials aren’t great right now, as he has paid 10 million dollars to various “friends” and others threatening to leak his secret, so he has put it out himself. There, there, Charlie. How do you feel? And it looks like it’s going to get worse before it gets better, because some women have claimed that in the last month or two, he had sexual relations with them without disclosing his status.
Some of the responses or reactions to this news that I have heard (on social media, in real life, on the radio) have been a little shocking. Shocking because this is 2015. Because you would think that we would know better in 2015. So many people really aren’t that informed about HIV and generally speaking, we do not have the right attitude.
One of my work buddies brought it up yesterday, and after asking “Did you hear…?” He went, “Why Charlie?”
To which I said, WHY NOT CHARLIE?
I did not say this because I know anything about Charlie Sheen. Sure, he has spent plenty of time in the media for drugs, wild and reckless behaviour but this is not about that. I said why not him because, it is HIV. This disease has been around for such a long time, and with all the campaigns and awareness, I thought we all- or my friend at least, understood it for what it is.
You don’t have to be extraordinary to have HIV. HIV is not reserved for people with a body count of 50 and above. It is not a “punishment.” HIV is not a hoe thing. Actually, I don’t have my stats but I’d imagine that sex workers are professional about their business. It’s still business. Your own non-prostitute habits may be putting you more at risk.
A HIV DIAGNOSIS IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD
If Charlie knew this sooner, he would have saved his 10 million dollars and probably even made more by spinning himself as a celebrity face of HIV. I mean, this is Charlie of the hashtags #winning and #tigerblood. Do you remember those days?
So. I was talking about my friend. I shifted away from Charlie for a bit and thought it was a good time to talk about HIV. Something I think we do not talk about enough in Nigeria. I mean, growing up, there were definitely more HIV Awareness ads. Remember that actual song? “Sofry sofry sofry, dey do am o. AIDS e dey for town?” This is not to say that there aren’t many organizations working hard to educate about HIV/ AIDS, provide counselling and testing, and help people get the right treatment. True champions, they are! Nigeria has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in Africa, and the world. Within Nigeria, Rivers State has the highest prevalence, of about 13%. These stats here and here.
I asked this friend if and when last he had ever tested for HIV and he was low-key offended. I found this response super interesting for someone who likes to talk about anything.
Probably thanks to social media and other mediums that allow us to express ourselves more freely in these times, I think we could do a better job of being honest about real issues than our parents’ generation were/ are. Many young people talk about sex, but we are not as willing to discuss possible consequences. Don’t say God forbid, not me. Okay, not you, but you can be a blessing of support to someone else.
So. Why am I here today? To just give you quick facts about the disease, and to remind you that it’s not the end of the world. Let’s go. 🙂
WHAT IS HIV?
HIV stands for “Human Immunodeficiency Virus”. AIDS stands for “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome”, and is also called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, and not everyone with HIV advances to this stage. If left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS.
According to the WHO Fact File, HIV can be transmitted through:
- unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex with an infected person;
- transfusions of contaminated blood;
- the sharing of contaminated needles, syringes or other sharp instruments;
- the transmission between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
- Eating any food, cooked or uncooked, with blood on it.
- From a sterile needle at a clinic or other health centre.
- From a human bite.
- From an insect bite including a mosquito bite.
- From an animal.
- From living in the same house as someone who is HIV positive.
- From a sewing needle if you stab your finger.
- From blood on a bus seat that went through your underwear.
- Cleaning nail clippers.
- Using a knife/fork/spoon/cup/plate that an HIV positive person may have used.
- Getting sexual fluid on skin.
- Getting sexual fluid on a cut that has already healed over. A cut has to be open to be a risk of HIV.
- Practice safe sexual behaviours such as using condoms;
- Get tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV;
- Avoid injecting drugs, or if you do, always use new and disposable needles and syringes;
- Ensure that any blood or blood products that you might need are tested for HIV
WE CAN’T SAY THIS ENOUGH
HIV is not as far from us as you think. Show support to anybody around you that is dealing with this. Don’t run away from them. As long as you are not exchanging body fluids, you are probably safer from getting sick by hanging out, or eating with a person with HIV than one with chicken pox.
And you. If you are sexually active, go get tested. Be an adult. If you are going to make the sex like an adult, be responsible like one is supposed to be and go get tested. According to the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, you can get tested at government hospitals for free. For more information about private clinics, see the end of the post. It’s funny to sing “Even your boo get a boo” lol or not. However you feel about said boo, get tested. You don’t have to tell the person that you’re going. Don’t feel shy to buy condoms because you know the woman at the pharmacy will judge you. If you catch anything, she would probably still judge you anyway.
It’s easy to think that HIV is not such a big deal anymore in these zones, especially because we aren’t hearing that much about it. We still have shows like MTV Base’s Shuga (Lupita was on the very first season, did you know?) to educate young people but clearly, that can only go so far. I for one, have never watched a full episode of the show. Prevention is better than cure, and HIV actually doesn’t have a cure. Or maybe Barack Obama knows the cure and B613 has forbidden him to speak of it (I kid, I kid). Research on the virus has come a long way. You can live a long and happy life with HIV/AIDS, even if you don’t have money like Magic Johnson. Last year, a Nigerian branding exec shared his story. You can read it on Bella Naija here if you have 5 minutes, and be inspired.
Okay. I’ve stepped down from my soapbox, but I hope you have heard.
Protect yourself. HIV is really, truly out there. Early detection could save you, and save others. At least think about getting tested soon. Remember that AB was being annoying about this and she gave you a long ass epistle to read. Share this with the people you care about, and the people you don’t care about. This is 2015 and HIV cannot, should not be taboo.
P.S. MeeMee endorses this message.
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