Understanding the Law
December 21, 2007
Rumours and HIV/ AIDS

Laws are useful to regulate certain behaviors in our society, but there are some areas where the law cannot reach. It is true that there are laws which provide protection against libel and slander, but there is little protection against rumours and gossip. Rumours and gossip eat at the very fabric of our society, making life miserable for many of our people. There is a sort of helplessness that takes its toll on the person who is the subject of the rumour or gossip. {{more}}

A woman’s plight

Last week Friday, 14th December, 2007, a newspaper carried the picture of a woman holding on to a piece of paper which she proudly displayed as the result of her HIV test. According to the woman, she was branded as being HIV positive by several persons in her village, and as a result she suffered discrimination and harassment on a daily basis. She related a tale of woes. Even the simple thing of boarding a bus became a problem for, as she claimed, “the van drivers …shun” her, whilst the rumour circulated. The Rapid HIV Testing came to her rescue in removing the rumour that made her life what could be considered to be a living hell.

Dissemination of information

It is very disappointing that despite all the information that is circulating about the disease, misconceptions still exist, and infected persons are discriminated against and ostracized by others in their communities. It also shows that persons who have the disease come under tremendous stress and strain. While it is important for persons to know about the disease so that they would protect themselves, there is no need to exert vengeance on those who have contracted the disease. In this article, I would like to appeal to persons in communities every where to refrain from contributing to the pain of those who are afflicted by the disease. They are already going through a painful experience and it serves no good purpose to add to their burden by ostracizing and insulting them.

Quite a great deal of useful information is in circulation, and everyone should be aware of the ways by which the disease could be contracted. Knowledge of the disease could help to allay some of the fears. The Ministry of Health continues to call on persons to act responsibly and avoid the deadly disease. Appeals go out daily on radio and television about the practice of safe sex. Perhaps we need to go into the byways to meet people on their own turf because recent statistics show that the disease in not under control and that the number of cases continues to increase.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that gets into the body through sexual intercourse with a person who has the virus, or by using a contaminated needle or from breast milk. Research has shown the virus to be present in blood, semen, pre-ejaculate and breast milk of infected persons. These fluids carry the virus within infected immune cells, and this causes the immune system to break down. When the immune system fails, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) sets in and the body becomes susceptible to infections. The disease cannot be contracted by sitting near to an infected person in a van, or standing on a queue with that person.

It has become common knowledge that the main form by which the disease is transmitted is through sexual intercourse. If one wants to avoid contracting the disease one must not have sexual intercourse with an infected person. You may ask how one would know that a person is infected. You need to ask your prospective partner to be tested. Testing is no longer out of reach; it is available with the Rapid HIV Testing programme. Treat everyone with respect.

I wish everyone a happy Christmas/ holiday. May all your wishes come true in the new year.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]