Agenda 8: Thematic Segment HIV and Ageing
By Lumumba Musah
I am a big brother to many children and ALHIV who have no hopes of reaching 30. However, if Musah made it in May 2016, I want them to hope that they can live longer too. Will they realize this dream only by testing and getting on treatment?
The WHO tells us that children and ALHIV have higher risk of mental health issues including depression, substance abuse, attention deficit disorder and learning difficulties, and address issues whether the cause is social – a consequence of their socioeconomic backgrounds, family history – or biological. “ This still deserves close scrutiny and appropriate response.
Personally, I can’t help but wonder from time to time what this means for different people living with HIV who are not in my community. No one really has control of how old they will live to be though I know most of us admire our grand parents. Those stories of when they met and how long they have stayed married are so encouraging. Of how they travelled and the friends they made. My most favorite is from my maternal grand pa. His tales in the fight for independence. I am engulfed by pride when I hear of how he fought for the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya. I have never quite understood how he knows all our names even when we talk to him on phone.
When you know your life depends on how well you adhere to your medication and you have to take it daily is no joke. I bet if you are not positive, this seems to make no sense but have you ever tried to take antibiotics for more than a week and wonder when the drugs will ever end? Or do you find yourself stopping it when the infection passes on without taking the entire dose? Now imagine this daily with not just one tablet. Some of my senior colleagues here had to go through taking a cocktail of drugs a day when ARVs were newly introduced. Colleagues, I applaud you for it took courage. I also salute those who lost the battle in the long run, when science had no tools, to manage HIV complications.
Mr. Chair, If a right to sexual and reproductive health is still a messy issue for adults populations, what about an adolescent who is living with HIV. Are they allowed to identify who they are, as boys, girls, trans, straight, gay it is even more complex?
Taking our life-saving medication may seem like a straightforward and obvious thing, to many policy makers, however it’s not just a case of popping a pill once a day. We need differentiated interventions for all PLHIV especially for those with cross vulnerabilities. As communities, we know when and how to reach out to our peers. This is why we are at the frontline, in the response. Mr. Chair, as communities of PLHIV in our diversity including adolescents, young people, Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender, people who use drugs, we are always going to do what we want to do for we know what works for us.
If you order us around, we’ll either get fed up and leave or we’ll ‘yes’ you to death. We don’t want to die,, we need HIV services that meet our unique emerging needs. Services that respect who we are, we reiterate that we are not just people, we are individuals.
I thank you.