# HIV HEROES

VANGARDIST

22

The scourge

of humanity

Let’s start by saying this: For a considerable

part of humanity, the effect of

HIV/AIDS does indeed have apocalyptic

dimensions. In Africa, the most

direly affected continent, Acquired Immune

Deficiency Syndrome is responsible

for the death of entire communities,

and we’re not talking about in

the 1990s, or 30 years from now, but

right this moment! South of the Sahara

more than 22 million people are HIV

positive, but it can be assumed that

there’s a considerable number of unreported

cases. In countries like Botswana,

Namibia or South Africa, almost

a quarter of the population is affected

by the disease and, unfortunately,

most are from younger generations,

less than 60 years old. Forget Ebola,

even forget all the wars being waged

from Donetsk to Aleppo and from

Kirkuk to Benghazi at the moment,

because after hunger and typhus, HIV

is probably still the worst scourge of

present-day humanity. Currently, only

Western societies are exempt from

this truth, but that doesn’t mean we’re

forever safe from this threat. Because

although we should be humbly grateful

for our privileged situation in light

of how infinitely vast the suffering is in

developing and emerging countries,

we in the West still haven’t conquered

the underlying cause of the problem

of HIV/AIDS—one that doesn’t have a

medical solution, but is instead deeply

rooted in our society.

Doomsday scenario

Apart from a lack of material resources

to fight and prevent the virus, the

reason for the epidemic’s unparalleled

spread amongst the poorest of the

world has always been the fact that this

disease is something that’s not talked

about because it’s still treated as a taboo:

because for many people, what

shouldn’t exist simply cannot possibly

exist. The fear of massive discrimination

and stigmatization understandably

reduces people’s willingness to be

tested, which is especially damaging

since, in order to curb the pandemic, it

is vital to deal with the disease openly.

But while in the West, the doomsday

scenarios hawked by the fearmongering

mass media in the 80s and 90s led

to relatively effective education on

this topic, in the Third World, HIV has

been able to spread almost uncontrollably

over two decades. In Western

countries, HIV has always been a tricky

topic as well though, and the disease

still comes attached with a certain

stigma; even though from a medical

viewpoint it’s not actually that big of a

deal anymore, people suffering from

it will still think twice before openly

talking about it. And so while we’re

congratulating ourselves on being so

super-educated on the topic, we tend

to forget that all the knowledge in the

world isn’t actually worth much if you

have to keep silent about it. The fact

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