People around the world recently commemorated World Aids Day, an event that has been going from strength to strength since the first one in 1988. The day is usually filled with all sorts of events – concerts, workshops, lectures, as well as coverage in the media – aimed at raising awareness of the plight of those infected with or affected by HIV and at spending gigantic amounts of money. The question some people ask is whether one day out of 365 is enough and whether the activities run during the day really have any impact?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 16.3% of South Africans over the age of 15-years are living with HIV. For those people, as well as their families and friends who are affected, HIV/AIDS is part of their life everyday.
There is another group of people who are affected by HIV/AIDS by choice. Around the world there are people from different backgrounds working on a daily basis to improve lives and to make sure that the number of HIV infected people doesn’t grow. The Life Choices VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing) team goes out daily to ensure that people know their HIV-status so that they can make informed decisions regarding their lifestyles.
Denise September, a VCT co-ordinator at Life Choices, said: “People need to know their status. It’s the only way they can make positive decisions.” She went on to say, “the prevention messages need to be repeated continuously in visual and innovative ways that connect with people.” Life Choices’ mobile VCT clinic, with its eye-catching decals, makes use of music, drumming and interactive information sessions to encourage people to get tested. In 2009, over 9000 people were tested thanks to the work of the VCT team. Those people are now able to make informed decisions regarding how to stay HIV-negative or how to live long and productive lives with the virus as well as how to protect others.
For the Life Choices team, Aids Day doesn’t happen once a year at the beginning of our summer. It’s a daily commitment, each day they encourage people to take ownership of their lives and make healthy decisions for their future. After all, the slogan at Life Choices states that “IT’S YOUR JOURNEY”.