Friday, December 01, 2006

GoK AIDS Day Goofs

In a recent post, I decried the government's early World AIDS Day present to criminals (or would-be criminals) afflicted with the disease. Today brings news of yet another gift, this time to teachers. According to the Nation, Teacher Service Commission Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni has promised that HIV-positive teachers will "get transfer requests approved automatically while those seeking early retirement will also have their terminal benefits prepared within a short time". As all who have dealt with the TSC will no doubt attest, this is no small award. Many teachers wait for years to get their transfers or benefits. And now every AIDS patient has jumped the queue.

I acknowledge the havoc that AIDS has wreaked in our communities but I am unable to see how this is helpful. After years of fighting AFRAIDS, it seems we are now being asked not to treat sufferers same as anybody else, but to shower them with pity. We were once told that with proper medication, care and nutrition, people with AIDS could be just as productive (and just as criminal) as the next person. However, now the government has opted to make them out to be "dead men walking".

These government edicts reinforce, rather than fight, the stigma associated with the syndrome. They further the view that those with the disease are different and lesser than the rest of us. That the disease renders them incapable of coping with the daily challenges faced by the rest of us. Just as the physically disabled rightly resent such notions (remember "disability is not inabilty"?), so those with AIDS should resent this government's characterisation of them. What they need are not condescending nods to their condition but the means to continue living full and productive lives.

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