Understanding the Law
March 7, 2014
The agony of rumours

AI am again appealing to persons to have some concern for their fellowmen/women. Another person, this time a woman, has taken to printed media to tell people that she does not have the virus and she provided the results of her test. I am bringing to you a similar appeal that I made some five years ago.{{more}}

It was with horror that I read in one of the weekend newspapers of January 16, 2009, of the plight of two young men who had to resort to a public announcement to inform everyone in SVG and beyond that they were not suffering from AIDS. They even posted their photographs with the notices. From their account, they were unable to live comfortable lives because of the rumours that had been circulating about them. A veritable case of desperation, and they hinted at some of the difficulties that they had been experiencing because of all the chatter around them. Not only were they propelled to satisfy themselves by taking the test to find out if they were afflicted with the disease, but they went even further to have the result printed. One of the men disclosed the nature of his malady, which he claimed accounted for his weight loss. I hope for the peace of mind of the two young men that the rumours have been dispelled and that a more positive attitude towards them is maintained.

While one cannot discount the devastating impact of the disease, we cannot take to public persecution of persons with the disease. People turn to rumours out of fear, but in today’s society it is surprising that persons are turning to such measures when so much information is available. In fact, even though someone is HIV positive or has the AIDS virus, no one has the right to harass or to cause public condemnation.

With the active dissemination of information about HIV/AIDS on radio and television and on electronic bill boards, one would expect that persons are more educated about the disease. We know that the disease cannot be contracted by casual contact, such as touching. It is neither air nor water borne, so we would not breathe it in or drink it. It is unlike the common cold, even though it is a virus. We also know that the virus is transmitted when one indulges in unprotected sex with persons who have the virus, or if one uses infected needles for drug purposes. HIV is transmitted through direct contact of the mucous membrane, or the bloodstream with a body fluid such as semen, vaginal fluid, pre-seminal fluid and breast milk.

Rumours are dangerous in small societies and could spread like wildfire, so that it is difficult to discover who started it. Some will not dismiss it as idle talk, but will pass it on to the next ready listener, so that within a short period of time the whole community is buzzing with it. Many persons fail to realize the hurt and suffering that a victim endures. One of the men who related his troubles claimed that minivan drivers refused to pick him up and he had lost friends because of the rumours. Suffice it to say that the victim was denied some of his rights because of the rumours.

We need to develop a better attitude towards people who suffer from this illness. It is already difficult to cope with the disease in terms of the discomforts and the costs for medication. We have to empathize with those who suffer and do whatever is within our powers to help. We cannot behave as if they are sub-human. Let us be a more caring nation.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

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