I am a survivor of sexual abuse and a young woman living with HIV. Personally I believe that as young people we take certain things seriously and relationships are one of them. When the relationship doesn’t work out it can be absolutely devastating. There are many young people especially women living in shame because of their HIV status and they don’t want the world to see them as less of who they really are. They feel guilty and are constantly blaming themselves.
I am personally tired of all of this and it needs to stop. There is no reason for anyone to suffer in silence or feel like they are invisible because of a health problem. This is why I decided to disclose my status to the world. It was not an easy thing to do but the thought of living freely as my true self and stop suffering in silence encouraged me to disclose, and ever since then I have never been happier. Disclosure is important in the fight against HIV and this is why it should not be limited to those of us who are HIV positive only. I feel like those who are HIV negative should also disclose, in that way giving everyone the responsibility of taking care of themselves.
I think you can all agree with me that disclosure can set one free and allows one to adhere to their medication properly —be it for prevention or treatment without fear of stigma and discrimination. It helps you to find those that are true friends and, hopefully, true love because the person gets to love you for who you truly are. Disclosure allows people in discordant relationships to seek prevention and treatment approaches that help both partners stay healthy.
However, for disclosure to be successful we—partners, families, friends and communities as well as governments and civil society organizations—have to work together to:
- Create a safe and non-judgmental environment for people to feel comfortable to disclose their HIV status.
- Offer youth-friendly services that include HIV and sexual and reproductive health package.
- Educate communities with information on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment .
- Offer prevention tools such as condoms, oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), diagnosis and treatment of sexual transmitted infections (STIs), HIV counselling and testing, etc.
Young women in particular are reported to have high incidence of HIV compared to their male counterparts. We need to empower young women and girls so they can stay healthy, whether or not they are ready to disclose their status.