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How HIV Is Ravaging Internal Organs, TB, And Spiking Cancer!

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HIV and AIDS is a taboo subject because it is associated with Sexually Transmitted Infections. Having the disease is stigmatized in private while in public is whitewashed as inconsequential! The spike of internal organ ailments, TB and cancer rarely is linked to HIV, and this discourse attempts to yoke them in a manner that will court public controversies and irksome for purposes and intents of public sensitization. This article deals with issues few will endeavour to address.

Read Related: Tuberculosis: A 35% Reduction in Deaths since 2015.

HIV and AIDS can be traced in East Africa since the late 1970s. In Tanzania, it was the soldiers who were returning from the Ugandan war began exhibiting symptoms that indicated that their health was compromised. Still, we did not have the means to know what had befallen them.

Another conspicuous group was in the Kagera region. The coffee traders, many of whom were young in their twenties, returned home from selling their coffee contraband in Uganda and began slimming until they died. We knew something went wrong in Uganda, but we did not know what it was and were oblivious that it was sexually transmitted.

Out of our ignorance, we labelled it “JULIANA” to tie the feared disease with the fancy shirts they had bought in Uganda and were spotting. Intuitively, we perceive Uganda had something to do with it, but we could not expressly place a finger on what was consuming them or how our neighbours bequeathed it.

It wasn’t until the earlier 1980s that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it was HIV and AIDS, and if more damning, it was a sexually transmitted ailment!

At the beginning of its diagnosis, there was rampant confusion the killer disease was caused by homosexuality, and therefore, over months heterosexual chests erroneously thought they were off the hook. Still, later, it was made and became abundantly clear that the disease was impartial. Before that, it was a double-edged sword for heterosexuality because it armed them with a false sense of security, and as a result, casual and unprotected sex was not contained. Secondly, heterosexuality ostracised homosexuality despite the two being a bird of a feather flocking together.

It was the exchange of human fluid during unprotected sex that contributed to the lion’s share of the infections with blood transfusions and infected needles lagging by afar. True, African American Tennis star Arthur Asher, who died on February 6, 1993, acquired HIV and AIDS through a blood transfusion during a heart operation. Arthur Asher died at the stripling age of 49 years! It is imperative to acknowledge in 1993, the medical know-how of HIV was scanty and unhelpful.

Read Related: Reaching HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control Goal by 2030: Youths’ Role to Mitigate the Epidemic.

Where Magic Johnstone, a world-acclaimed Basketball superstar, 1991 confessed to being hit by HIV because of leading a reckless life, bonking over 1000 groupies, but HIV deniers have been pushing back, hurling a spurious claim Magic Johnstone contracted HIV from a contaminated Hepatitis B vaccine as part of a study run by Dr Anthony Fauci decades ago. It was a cunning stratagem to sway public opinion that there was no correlation between HIV and unprotected sex!

In Africa, the then president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, associated HIV with the legacy of colonialism. He surmised that HIV was a Western world hoax that parlayed African man sexual myths. By some estimates, Thabo Mbeki’s intransigence may have wiped out the lives of 200,000 South Africans through deprivation of the medical care they desperately needed to prolong their days, soothing the pangs of pain and the sceptre of death.

In Tanzania, HIV and AIDS are suppressed and rarely a domineering topic. At best, the authorities feed us with forlorn hopes of its total annihilation; at worst, we are blitzed with the symptoms to obfuscate the real causes of the disease. More often than not, the cause of death is said to be confidential or a matter left to the doctor-patient disclosure agreement.

As a result of stigma, even during burial, farewell to the deceased is done in a manner where either photographing the departed is forbidden or the casket is closed from public viewing. Sometimes, the inconsolable families persistently ask to be left to grieve privately.

As society shuns the whole subject, we tend to know very little of the consequences of reckless decision-making, and flowing from that, the killer disease gains the upper hand. In Kenya, one doctor alluded to the proliferation of TB cases to HIV. He said over 70% of TB patients tend to be HIV positive, too. So, concluding his observations, he affirmed the disease is weakening the natural immunity system, leading to opportunistic diseases such as TB, internal organ failures and cancer to overwhelm patients.

In Tanzania, we are always falling back on misleading assurances that life goes on uninterrupted despite one contracting the life-threatening scourge. It is in those reassurances that we embolden unprotected sex that is stoking the spike of new infections. We also would love to claim without providing any evidence that Tanzania is possible without HIVĀ (Tanzania Bila UKIMWI Inawezekana). Well, the gospel truth demands no further emphasis that unless we overcome the bondage of stigma, HIV and AIDS is here to stay.

The number of Tanzania suffering from failure or compromised internal organs and those grappling with cancer is on the rise, but few peek at the correlation between with HIV and AIDS. It is digressed, invoking a sense of guilt, shame and fear of societal stigma. Everywhere you go, few and far between are coming out to confess that they are HIV positive and are left in peace. In whispers, society will review your past sex life and conclude you reaped what you saw. Many opt to keep the shame to themselves lest they be ridiculed and harangued.

Also, read Tanzania’s Remarkable Progress Towards Zero New HIV Infections by 2030.

Since we have chosen to esteem a lie, then the killer disease is here to stay. While Nelson Mandela was lauded for disclosing what had killed his nearest kin, however, during his last hours, some questioned his status, lambasting him for shaming a relative but hiding his situation. Whether those claims were true or not helps us to understand the difficulties and dilemmas in sensitization of the general public to the ramifications of HIV through naming without shaming.

In Tanzania, no leader has ever divulged if they are HIV positive. Everybody leaves us with the impression HIV is for the losers, but it is impartial. The disease is judging us according to what we do with our bodies but not discriminating against us based on social or economic class.

With opportunistic ailments such as compromised or failed internal organs, cancer and respiratory ailments now a national concern, there is a need to acknowledge HIV is behind most of these health issues. The more we cover our tracks, the less chance we have of public sensitization against reckless and unprotected sex, leaving ourselves open to deadly HIVĀ uppercuts.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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