The HIV/AIDS Response Unit is worried that not enough people living with HIV are showing up for care.
Coordinator of the unit, Lester Guye, says discrimination and fear of discrimination are huge contributors to that challenge.
“I still think our society is at the stage where someone might tell you yes, I know that if I sit on a bus next to someone or go to a restaurant where a worker is HIV positive, nothing will happen to me but I just don’t feel comfortable. So you will find that people who test positive for HIV are reluctant to come to care because they feel that if one person knows then someone else will also know,” he explains.
“We always establish that your status is only shared by you,” Guye assures, that for the Unit, “if someone is not a part of your healthcare team, they have no need to know your status.”
He admits however, “We live in a small community and someone might see you in a specific situation and assume that you are HIV positive and it spells badly because they may say it to someone else and that could be misinformation.
“This is preventing people from care and if people are not coming to care then then they don’t get treated.”
He says that by failing to get care and treatment, people living with HIV who become sexually active put others at risk.
Ultimately, he says, “They’re not in care and not in treatment…years down the line, they are now at the hospital because they now have AIDS symptoms. Sometimes it is too late.”