By Hannah Ball-Brau, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America youth delegate to the 19th International AIDS Conference
During the International AIDS Conference, I attended a session discussing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), like diabetes and cancer, and their treatment among HIV-positive patients.
The diagnosis and treatment of these NCDs are often being overlooked in those who are HIV-positive. For example, in many countries in Africa, ART and other HIV drugs are often made available by charitable organizations, and yet insulin must be paid for out of pocket.
Though I pass no judgment on this imbalance, I cannot ignore it. However unintentional, it communicates a message that the HIV virus is more important than the patient.
This is an understanding that permeates today’s society. “HIV-positive” has become a method of identification and a source of discrimination just as race and sexual orientation have. We so often forget the person and see only the disease.
But why do we give a virus so much power? Is knowing someone’s status sufficient to understand him or determine his potential?
No! HIV status is just a part of someone’s identity. And it is imperative for the eradication of the virus, holistic treatment of the patient, and end of discrimination, that we acknowledge and discuss this fact.