As part of the tradition of the World AIDS Day celebrations, I received a red ribbon to attach to my shirt and spread awareness about the disease. Although this might seem ignorant on my side, sometimes I get the feeling that the disease has been completely eradicated from the country. Well, my feelings are surely not based on some sort of research I did on the subject. When I think about it, my feelings come from the fact that the media is not as vocal about the subject as it used to be some twenty years back. I remember back in the 1980s and 90s the subject of HIV/AIDS was all over the media and on the minds of its audiences. TV and radio soaps/dramas rarely go without mentioning the subject in one way or another. NGOs had flourished everywhere to help in the prevention of the disease and to stop the stigmatization of the victims. I also remember that the one thing people dreaded when applying for a visa to the USA was the inevitable test for HIV/AIDS as back in the days, being HIV positive was ground for a travel and immigration ban to the US until the travel ban came to an end in 2010.
I believe that a lot has been done in terms of awareness creation about HIV/AIDS. Thanks to the easy and cheap availability of condoms and drugs that control the growth of the virus and improve the immune system of the patients, HIV/AIDS may not be as worrisome as it used to be the 1980s and 90s. But does that mean the virus is no longer spreading among our citizens? Although the near to radio silence of the media on the subject might make it seem as if we are ‘HIV/AIDS free’, holidays such as the World AIDS day is a good reminder of the contrary.
In a situation in which people pay sex workers extra money just for the sake of avoiding condoms, it is quite difficult to claim an ‘HIV/AIDS free‘ state of condition. With the existence of people who are willing to ignore the fact that sex workers live with the virus but yet agree to unprotected sex, it gets difficult to fight the spread of the virus. These days, the proliferation of Shisha and chat houses coupled with the increasing number of unemployment among the youth can provide a fertile ground for the spread of the virus. Nowadays, I believe we are seeing a strong drinking culture as evidenced by the widespread advertisements for alcohol. I believe that this all means that the silence of the media should not be a distraction away from careful measures against the prevention of the spread of the virus.
I keep mentioning the media because I believe it is the most important means to educate a large part of the population about the virus. The entertainment sector, and in particular movies and TV soap operas have particularly a great role to play. Nowadays, the mention of the virus in movies is very rare to none. I believe that, unless the rate of new infections is brought down to 0%, the task of the media towards awareness creation is far from over! HIV/AIDS awareness creation campaigns should not be fashion trends that are widely seen at some moment in time but then disappear almost completely once the ‘heat is over’.