STIGMA STILL A ROOT FACTOR IN HIV PENDEMIC
By Zinhle Mngadi
An HIV survivor and rape victim Cynthia Tlathlane told the congregation that the stigma she experienced almost caused her life and it remains a critical factor that leads to the high HIV/AIDS pandemic in this country. She said this at the 6th South African Aids Conference held at the Albert Luthuli Convention Centre to as she shared her life story in a Stigma-Reduction Intervention Seminar.
Nthati Cynthia Tlatlane (29) has been living with the HI Virus for seven years now. Diagnosed at the age to 22-years-old, she told the delegates that she was raped by her then, boyfriend’s friend who she later found out that he was infected with the virus. She further said that from then, her life took a bad turn leading to prostitution, drug addiction and deteriorating health.
“I reached a point whereby my CD for count was 65 and I couldn’t use my body to generate money. My pimp booked me the first bus back home to Johannesburg to die there” said Tlatlane.
Tlatlane also told the congregation that the stigma and offensive treatment HIV patients receive from nurses at government hospitals is immensely the contributing factor of the unknown deaths after diagnosis.
Prof Manrie Greeff from the North West University said that unless stigma is curbed, victims will not want to be associated with the treatment available for them. She further stressed that government needs to start implementing strategies to deal with this root issue of stigma and discriminating on infected victims.
“In the research I’ve done for Stigma interventions, I’ve looked at five countries which include South Africa and I realised that ‘stigma’ is still a root problem in societies both rural and urban. And until the government does something to deal with the root problem that’s destroying even the treatment programme in societies, we will not curb this virus” said Greeff.
Experts pointed out that there are three waves that hit a newly diagnosed HIV patient. The HIV wave, the AIDS wave, and the Stigma wave.
Bea Pretorious is a professional nurse and she stated out that patients first discriminate themselves, then family becomes the next biggest discriminator and then the community.
“Particularly in the medical field, we deal with patients who are at all stages of the virus but the biggest factor that causes people to give up on life is ‘stigma’ says Pretorious.
The conference ends tomorrow.