‘IT’S NOT THE BULLET IN A GUN THAT KILLS BUT THE HAND THAT PULLS THE TRIGGER’
The village of Umuoke was thrown into confusion on an Eke market day. The business of that day was grounded by the tragedy of that morning. At the popular Eke market square, the awful sight that was beheld by many brought ears even to the eyes of strong men. Leaving their thought to run wide, people were tense with emotion. An onlooker who could not hold his feelings exclaimed within the crowd, “Hey, abomination! Arukwonwa!
Cold chill ran down the spin of many as they watched Mazi Okeke’s son suspended on a tree by a rope. His breath was snuffed out by the well looped noose around his neck. The question on everyone’s mind was, “Why would a promising son of Umuoke take his life in such a despicable manner?”
The answer which was far-fetched from the onlooker’s eyes was hidden in the lifeless body of Ifemelu who had been a business man at the popular Onitsha main market. The young man who tested positive to HIV could not contain the thought of the stigma that awaited him in the streets of his country, even in his family. The mere thought of the discrimination that he would face and his ignorant belief that ‘HIV cause AIDS and AIDS leads to death’ spurred him into going to the market where he bought a rope, went down to his village where he made a noose and hung himself on a tree. Ifemelu’s choice of committing suicide in his village was to be closer to the grave of his fathers.
The rising tide of discriminating against people living with HIV has been a nightmare. We have refused to understand the fact that ‘it is not the virus in HIV that kills but our attitude towards people living with it.’ Yes, our attitude towards people affects their action. The ignorance of men and women in our society kills faster than the virus itself. We often ignore the fact that everyone is at the risk of contracting this virus; while those who are living with the virus are erroneously believed to have shaken hands with the devil.
In Nigeria, ministries are scattered to carter for the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS, even ARDs and counseling are most times graciously provided, but it beats my imagination to learn that many who are supposed to take advantage of these offers are nowhere to be found. They are often held bound in their ‘caves’ by the manacles of the fear of stigmatization and discrimination. They wrongly think that coming out to seek for these helps will expose them to the prying eyes of the ‘gossipy’ public. Some, like Ifemelu, go to the point of calling it a quit to this beautiful life. According to UNAIDS, Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world and one of the highest rates of new infection in sub-Saharan Africa. But, if you ask me, I would say that that is not the worst case scenario. Stigma contributes, to a large extent, the sad stories told by many. An employer whose employee is suspected to be living with the virus gets an immediate sack letter. A woman whose husband is rumoured to have died from the virus is treated like a leper.
It was quite pathetic hearing the story of an orphan who was driven into the harshness of the street all because stories had it that his parents died of AIDS. My dear, what do you think would become of you or your child when faced with rejection. “God forbid!” you would say. Well, a biblical injunction says it all__ ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’.
As someone whose mother gave 35 years of her life tending to the sick in the hospital (UNTH Ituku Ozalla, Enugu state), I sometimes went to their Heart to Heart Centre/clinic to see young people who, supposedly (i.e by my own assessment) are living with the virus. I found out that as a result of the way people living with HIV/AIDS are being regarded, especially in this part of the world, a man that test positive to the virus would rather hang himself than wait to be greeted by the unfriendly hands of discrimination. But, do you know what? The man that hangs himself and the one that metes out discrimination to someone living with the virus are guilty. Yes, they are guilty of IGNORANCE!
The gospel truth is that people who are living with the virus are not barred from living a long and a healthy life. Ask the doctors.
My dear, it is sad to know that young people, especially on campuses and most of our local communities, still indulge in risky behaviours. Many people parade the streets and our campuses without knowing their HIV status. Our stubborn legs have simply refused to conform to the good habit of going for routine HIV test. Little wonder that most people get to find out that they are living with the virus when the head is already chopped off____ when it’s a little late. Honestly, dear reader, when was the last time you checked your HIV status?
The cliché is, “If you’re not infected, you’re affected.” So, let’s join hands in making sure that Africa and indeed the world is rid of this nightmare called HIV/AIDS. Remain vigilant for it may be in your neighbourhood, especially now that a lot of youths are idle. I know you still remember what they say about Idleness. Above all, show love and care to people living with the virus. That’s the only way you can contribute to the international fight against this malady that sneaked into our neighbourhood at night.
Finally, remember that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. So, show love, not just to loved ones; SHOW LOVE TO PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS.
As you already know, today’s World AIDS DAY (WAD); this is the summary of my message. Keeping The ABC Formula in Mind
We’ve been made to understand that:
A__ Abstinence (in d ABC formula) is the most Assuring!
But, if u MUST do, use a Condom
However, bear in mind that having a ‘B’ in an exam is also a good grade.
Let’s say no to HIV & AIDS!
Say an emphatic NO to stigma n discrimination!