HIV does not equal death – Dr Everold Hosein
February 1, 2013
HIV does not equal death – Dr Everold Hosein

The view that an individual who is HIV positive is as good as dead is a misconception that needs to be changed.{{more}}

Dr Everold Hosein, World Health Organization Senior Communications Advisor-Consultant, who was in St Vincent last week on a two-day assessment, said that dispelling this mistake is a challenge he is yet to decipher.

“I am quite surprised at this perception, but there seems to be still present in St Vincent and in a number of other OECS countries — the view that HIV equals death.

“That used to be the old view. The new emerging view in many countries — and in fact it’s becoming almost a dangerous view, but it is a correct view — HIV is almost like diabetes; it’s a manageable disease. If you stick to the treatment, you will live for however long time.”

Hosein used the example of former NBA player Ervin “Magic” Johnson and Vincentian Sydney Joseph as “living proof” that the equation of HIV with death is outdated, but still believed by some.

“They say ‘No, Sydney is a Trini smart man who came to St Vincent. He is not HIV positive. And ‘Magic Johnson, he is definitely not HIV positive. You can’t be HIV positive and live so long.’”

Joseph, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2001, is a community animator with the Caribbean HIV Alliance. He counsels persons getting tested for HIV, as well as persons living with HIV.

Johnson, an American, announced his HIV positive status in 1991, and has since been an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex, as well as an entrepreneur and motivational speaker.

Hosein said that regardless of the availability of this information, he is still surprised that the out-dated view still exists — a view he linked to stigma and discrimination, and one that discourages persons not to get tested.

“So, that challenge that I’m finding in St Vincent is that how do we convert this view from HIV equals death, and convert it to HIV means treatment and living a long time,” Hosein added.

“It’s almost like having another chronic disease, and having any chronic disease is a pain. Having to take insulin every day is a pain; having to take a tablet or six tablets everyday to deal with your HIV stages is a pain, but the fact is, there is treatment and you will live a long time.

“Despite the information that you do not get HIV by touching someone who is HIV positive, even though one knows that in their head, somewhere in the heart prevents you from doing that.

“Another which I heard is he/she is ‘aidsy,’ so don’t let her on the bus, so if he/she sits next to you, you will get HIV.

“There’s something with these perceptions that I’m still trying to figure out. How do you change that?”