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World AIDS day message

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By Edwin Cameron, Constitutional Court of South Africa


edwin2With four short words, we can sum up all the wisdom we need to deal with HIV and AIDS effectively: prevention, testing, treatment and anti-stigma.
But behind these words lies a grief-stricken history of loss and suffering. A history of shame and fear and self-blame.
To understand the power of the four words, we have to understand our history.
Then we can understand why, as we go into World AIDs day 2016, we have so much to rejoice about. In July 2016, South Africa hosted a massive gathering, nearly 20 000 strong, of the world’s leading activists, workers, clinicians, researchers, social scientists and people living with HIV and AIDS.
The news from the conference was almost unceasingly good. New infections, though still perilously high, are generally down. More people are on treatment. More people are living longer, better more productive lives. We are tackling stigma and its root causes.
It was the second time we hosted the international AIDS conference. The last time was in 2000, 16 years ago. Then we did so under a pall of fear and dejection. President Mbeki’s disastrous connivance with AIDS-denialism was at its height. Treatment was restricted to the ultra-privileged – like me. Three years before, I had started taking anti-retroviral treatment. It saved my life. Spectacularly. And miraculously.
But for tens of millions of Africans only suffering and death lay ahead.
President Mbeki’s denialism refused to consider ARVs as part of the solution. His approach stemmed from shame – shame and stigma about a sexually transmitted mass epidemic afflicting black Africans. And, in turn, his denialism acutely exacerbated shame and stigma.
It was a testing time for rationality and the epidemic. But it was also a testing time for our constitutional values, for the Treatment Action Campaign and its allies and for the courts.
The crisis ended with a ringing victory. The Constitutional Court of Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson and Deputy Chief Justice Pius Langa issued a unanimous ruling. The Court struck down President Mbeki’s policies on antiretroviral drugs. It ordered him to start making them available. President Mbeki’s government eventually complied.
So much has changed in these 16 years, so radically. South Africa now has the world’s largest publicly-provided ARV treatment program. Over three million people are on government-provided life-saving treatment.

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We’re Braver Together: Mentally too

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Isolation and loneliness are hazardous to your health. Studies show that depression caused by feelings of alienation and isolation can be as harmful to your health as obesity, or chugging half a pack of cigarettes a day!

Health4Men is currently running a campaign encouraging men who have sex with men to go and get tested for HIV with a close friend, for support. It’s based on the premise that we are braver when we do things together. But this is not just a great strategy for how to deal with the anxiety you may have about your HIV status; it’s also a good strategy when it comes to your mental health too. Here are a few points to ponder that will help you to reach out and connect with someone if you need to, for your good mental health:NoBullies

• Everybody hurts some times. Feeling lonely is very common, and almost everyone will experience it from time to time. Things happen in our childhood that makes us feel abandoned for some or other reason, and then, when we get older, something random can trigger a memory of this feeling of abandonment, and so we become overwhelmed with a feeling of isolation or aloneness. It’s important to remember at these times that loneliness is often just a feeling and not a fact. You may feel lonely, but in truth, there are probably many people who would love the opportunity to connect with you, given the opportunity.

• Connecting with other people is the best way to deal with stress, anxiety and depression. The reason that group therapy has such a great success rate is that we all respond much better to treatment or challenges when we feel that we are “all in this together”. Being part of a collective reminds us that we are in fact not alone, which is something that depression and reclusive behaviour can allow us to start to believe is true. Joining a yoga group or a hiking society can make a world of difference to your outlook on life.

• Get over yourself. Obsessing over your life and how you feel about it can actually aggravate feelings of alienation and despair. Try to focus on others for a while and see things from their perspective. You may become inspired by how bravely other people are battling their fears and personal demons. Compassion is a strange thing, when we have compassion for others, it causes others to start treating us in a similar way, and nothing can connect two souls better than cars of compassion running on a two-way street. Kindness is the same. Relationships and marriages that work for many years have been founded on good habits of treating one another with kindness.

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Mr Mademoiselle

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Hi, im Mr Mademoiselle and I come forth to shake your concept of homosexuality, to the core – using make up. The art of slow, rapid, almost not-there self-realisation is a very beautiful thing, the fact that you are going through a defining phase/ moment/ time in your life that is somewhat significant in its own right but you cannot see it is inconceivable. It can be related to watching a hour long movie based entirely on your life and not seeing that its based on the shit you’ve had to take your sandwich with. You’re there, its happening to you, but you’re blinded by all life has to offer such as breathing and buying bread that you fail to pick up on your life’s God-goool-map rerouting your path in life.

gaybarWe unfortunately do not possess the ability to view our lives in an aerial perspective and see where it is that universe takes us, anyway..   Back to what this is actually about, masculinity, the myth, phantom, relatively circumstantial since it depends on the box secular ideologies thrown you in. I have held both shallow and abstruse conversations with many of my fellow LGBTQI brothers, sisters and fluid beings on the topic of femininity and its relation to our world, how one balances it with their masculinity and if one should, at all, try to.

Needless to say, there were many head nods and a lot of “where the fuck is this going”? moments. From the moment one comes out the closet or accepts themselves as whatever it is that they are – when it goes against societal norms that is, there is always backlash, always. But the odd thing now is, the backlash is received from both the heterosexual world’s inhabitants as well as from those in the LGBTQI community. This is because of the ‘kind of gay guy’ image that society (both cis-hetero and LGBTQI) has created fits one shade of gay that the world is okay with, that we now all should aspire to being. This is normally the “straight acting” gay guy you find, who has “Not your typical gay guy, love sports, love hiking, I don’t know who Beyoncé is” writing all over his bio’s because that somehow makes him less gay. Is it that difficult to acknowledge that we CANNOT be the same?  

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When your BFF is living with HIV

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By Bruce J. Little

We sat around the pool chatting and laughing about stuff we’d gotten up to over the weekend.  We loved to do this; get together and compare dating war stories, and this always left us both wheezing from too much cackling and not enough breathing.  I was still mid the descending voiced sigh that usually ends a long spell of laughter when he said:  "I need to tell you something."h4mlogo

The news left me completely stunned with absolutely no idea what to say.  This is a guy that I could usually tell anything to, a person that shared my un-PC sense of humour and also loved to play in the realms of the inappropriate.  He and I sang Gaga together and flirted outrageously with petrol attendants. But I knew that what he had said was not meant to be funny. 

He wasn’t the first person I knew that was HIV-positive, but he was the first person that I knew well, and the last person I thought would ever acquire it. My first lesson, HIV is indiscriminate.

I said so many tactless things, and looking back I admire how well he coped with some of the stupid things I said and asked.  Knowing that I can't go back and change how I reacted then, at least, I can now help people to know what they should say if they ever find themselves in the same situation.

My first big mistake:  I got all formal and not like myself.  Because I felt unsure of what to say, I suddenly started to edit myself and to speak in a way that wasn't authentic. I must’ve sounded like a call centre agent from a complaints hotline. He picked it up immediately. Authenticity is the best first response.  "I'm sorry to hear that", wasn't the wrong thing to say so much as it wasn't the kind of thing I would usually say to him.  It was the kind of stuff you say to an acquaintance or disgruntled customer. I should have sworn out loud and grabbed and hugged him; that would've been more me.   What you say is not as important as the way that you say it.     

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Anova embraces the approval of PrEP in South Africa

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The Anova Health Institute welcomes the move by the Medicines Control Council (MCC) after they officially registered the use of a combination of two antiretroviral drugs as a form of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication. This pill, taken daily by the HIV negative individuals, can drastically reduce HIV infection.

Prof James McIntyre, CEO of Anova, says: “This is a major advance in HIV prevention in South Africa, with the potential to save many lives. The evidence is clear, PrEP works if you take it. Not everyone will need or want PrEP, or require it forever, but it can provide almost complete protection against infection if taken consistently. Our challenge is to educate users and move rapidly to ensure access for those who need it.”h4mlogo

Dr Kevin Rebe, Specialist Medical Consultant at Anova’s Health4Men Initiative, says: “The approval of PrEP is a major step forward in the fight against HIV. It is extremely effective and safe to use. It can reduce the risk of HIV by more than 90% in HIV negative people who use it correctly. This announcement will greatly facilitate the work that Anova conducts in HIV prevention. Our challenge now is to create demand for PrEP and to work towards removing barriers to access.”

Anova, in collaboration with the Desmond Tutu HIV Research Unit, already has a PrEP demonstration project underway within state sector clinics. Anova is working to develop tools that will allow PrEP to be nurse-driven and scaled up by the Department of Health.

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