Servest CEO, Xolile Sizani, led the business in understanding, and appreciating the importance of the HIV/Aids issue in our society. He delivered the following message to the Servest colleagues, right before heading into a consultation room to get tested himself.
“More than 7.5 million South Africans live with HIV, which is 20% of the people in the world living with HIV. Globally 36.9 million are infected. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 35 million people have died of HIV.
As we all know, World AIDS Day takes place tomorrow the 1st December. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives from AIDS-related illnesses.
What does this day mean for us as Servest?
Well, we are a people centred business and this disease affects us in our families and communities every day, and we need to show care for our colleagues that are infected. As an organization, we need to support those amongst us living with the disease in every way we can. You might be asking yourself how do you show this support: It can be as simple as educating yourself about the disease to eradicate the stigma associated with having it, and understanding that infected people are people just like you and me. As a business we want to establish a long term wellness programme, for our people, because we care about the health of all our colleagues.
This programme starts today by encouraging each Servestian to “Know their Status”. There are many benefits to being aware of a positive status. These benefits include:
- Accessing information and effective treatment as soon as possible to keep your immune system healthy
- Immediately taking steps to protect your sexual partner from being infected, and
- If you are pregnant, you can reduce the risk of your baby becoming infected.
Finding out your positive HIV status as early as possible, gives you time to make plans for yourself and your dependents to be looked after, if you do get sick.
You can help educate others and improve their attitudes and behaviour towards the disease, by talking about your HIV status and your decision to get tested. Remember that giving out information about your status is entirely your decision. The health professionals and counselors who conduct and discuss the test with you must, by law, keep the results strictly confidential.
So what does it mean if you test positive?
The outlook for people living with HIV has significantly improved over the past two decades. New tests, treatments, and technological advancements for HIV have greatly improved what was once a grim outlook. Thirty years ago, being diagnosed with the disease was considered a death sentence. Many people who are HIV-positive can now live much longer, healthier lives when they regularly take antiretroviral treatment. So testing positive is not the end of the world, you can still live a long and fruitful life. A lot of people die from not understanding the disease. When it comes to HIV, ignorance is not bliss.
That’s why routine screening is vital. Early detection and timely treatment are key to managing the virus, extending life expectancy, and reducing the risk of transmission. Those who remain untreated are more likely to experience complications from HIV that could lead to illness and death.
How do we tackle the stigma associated with the virus/ disease?
Learning to overcome HIV stigma is not always an easy thing. It requires a degree of self-reflection, as well as an honest assessment of your own personal biases and beliefs. Just a few pointers on how to start with this:
- Start by removing the blame from any discussion you may have with yourself. Remind yourself that HIV is a disease and not a moral consequence
- Educate yourself about HIV using quality reference materials
- If you are afraid of opening up to someone you know, call an AIDS hotline, there’s always someone on the other line to listen to your story
Let’s learn to care for one another – if you care about someone, you immediately want to support and not to judge them.
Join me today, get tested and be proud to know your HIV status. HIV knows no colour, no creed, no marital status and no financial status.
Know your status – Get tested!”