Yes, I can hear your eyes rolling in the back of your head, thinking, not that again!
HIV has not disappeared off the face of the earth, let alone South Africa. Hiding under that wonderful bush of ours or playing ostrich with your head in the sand does not make it invisible. ‘It’ affects us all in some form or another. Guaranteed you do know someone that is HIV+, they may just not have disclosed their status to you.
As I awoke this morning it dawned on me just how much the South African community is ignoring this issue and that includes the general public, large companies, government as well as training and medical institutions as they appear to think if they skim over in the lead up to World AIDS Day (WAD) on the 1st December every year, they are covering the issue, think again.
The last stats that I could gather was dated in 2012, stating we had 400,000 new infections in that year, those are the ones that have tested and we know about. On my arrival in the Western Cape and a period of my first three months I met in the region of 400 people and was horrified to discover that not one of them had ever had an HIV test, it is no wonder that KZN, where I relocated from is classified as the highest rate in SA/World. Is it because they actually test and many know there status?
When last have you seen a major campaign on TV or radio creating awareness, three weeks prior to WAD 2014, perhaps? It just so happened that as I was thinking about this this morning I received a phone-call from a long time HIV client who voiced exactly the same thing, weird, no but it got me to thinking that it seems that it is only the HIV positive individuals that are excruciatingly aware that not enough is being done. After our discussion his tongue in cheek comment to me was, ‘it must be gone then’.
I shudder to think, is this what the public may assume, that it is no longer an issue. Sadly, on a daily basis I still have many calls for help, enquiries and newly infected persons asking for information and counselling. HIV has not vanished!
Management throughout companies assume that they have everything under control, they may have existing cases under control but what is South Africa doing about preventing new cases, nothing, nada, blow all. Having HIV awareness talks or ‘HIV in the Workplace’ Programmes is all good and well but what is being done on an ongoing basis to keep the majority of the workforce in prevention mode?
The fact that some companies have provided in-house medical assistance does not mean they are fully equipped to deal with the situation as a whole. In some case the organisations have become outdated and have neither the time nor the inclination to gather current knowledge and seem loathe to outsource that information.
What is preventing companies from apprising their medical, HR management of the latest on HIV & AIDS, is it financial?
‘THINK’ Are YOU a Jump Ahead? If it is financial then we as South Africans have a problem as the cost of absenteeism, especially in the initial stages of being diagnosed can be heavy on the pocket of the company but this does not appear to faze anyone.
By creating awareness, updating HR Managers, Peer Educators, Champions, whatever the companies preference is to name them, should be paramount to the health and wellness of staff and their families which will ultimately ensure attendance and profitability for the concerned organisation which provides South Africa with a thriving experienced and well balanced community that will ensure the future of one and all.
The recent incorrect treatment options offered by two independent GP’s had my head spinning, it is people’s lives and emotions that are at stake and the lack of information and empathy are inexcusable.
Patient One: Doctor gave prescription for PEP (Post Exposure Prophylactic) to a patient that was exposed in excess of six months, should be within 72 hours.
Patient Two: Potentially exposed and visited Doctor within 24 hours and GP’s advice was to come back in three months for a test, no PEP offered!
There are many of us HIV+ individuals that have taken it upon ourselves to provide information and have ended up making it our life’s work to be an active force in combating the ongoing infection rate but we cannot do it alone. Having someone actually living with the virus and experiencing the various stages of the disease and being diagnosed with AIDS is a valuable and fairly unique opportunity for companies to use their knowledge.
Where to from here? ‘THINK’