A CHANGE IS NOW by Chanda Mwango, Zambia
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
There is a clearly seen unfair playing field when it comes to women in general and speaking up for ourselves. There are so many injustices that young adolescent girls and women are facing as individuals living with HIV that cannot go unheard or played off as nothing serious any longer.
Due to certain variables such as unequal social status, cultural status etc., women and adolescent girls are disproportionally affected by HIV. It does get really frustrating and sad to have to keep on fighting for things such as respect, equality, or just for our voices to be heard. This is something each of us should naturally be given. Clearly there is a need for things to change and for that to happen, we need to be the change we all want to see right now.
Let us talk about discrimination and stigmatization (self-stigmatization included) against adolescent girls and women living with HIV for a minute. This is probably something both you and I have heard spoken about several times from many amazing advocates because it is a serious issue that will keep on being addressed until a change is seen. This discrimination and stigmatization can be felt in accessing health care, in our families, in our working environments, and many more areas in which we are supposed to feel respected and loved.
Being told not to have children and forced to be sterilised simply because of being HIV positive, having a fear of being in relationships because of how judgemental people can be, feeling ashamed of taking medication and the feeling of you not being worthy of certain things because of your HIV status are some of the examples of discrimination and stigmatization being faced in today’s world.
The misconception about HIV that has been brewing for a while now really needs to be rectified. It is really disturbing how some people can be so narrow-minded when it comes to addressing this. The effect that discrimination and stigmatization have on the lives of adolescent girls and women is that it robs each one of them of the right to live a normal and fulfilling life just like everybody else should. It harms the mental health and overall wellbeing of those afflicted by it. It will take each and every one of us to lend a firm hand to help eradicate this problem as soon as we can.
Another thing that is quite worrisome and needs to be talked about as much as possible is the alarming number of increased gender-based violence cases especially during this quarantine period. It is really puzzling how one can go to certain lengths of harming another human being. This installs a sense of fear among other things and in the lives of adolescent girls and women that are living with HIV, it can lead to them withholding their HIV status, fail to adhere to medication, or go for counselling when they need it.
This problem also brings to light the issue of gender inequality and how it plays a destructive role in the lives of adolescent girls and women that are living with HIV because it is degrading, disrespectful and inhumane. This needs to stop because in the end, we are just leaves from the same tree so we need to be treated the right way which is the only way. Your status does not define you or the way you should be treated.
I have only touched on the above two issues that are faced by adolescent girls and women living with HIV and there are many more that need to be addressed as well. It is devasting for an individual to have to deal with these problems on a daily basis and not have peace of mind. These are issues that will keep on being voiced until you and I can see a definite change because at the end of the day we are one people and should start acting like it.
Till next time. xoxo
Thank you for your generous support for the ICW Young Women's Media Team.