With December 1, we have officially reached the end of the fall season. In this period when the importance of winter teas such as linden and fennel increases, even more, we wanted to start our article by sending our get-well wishes to all our readers who feel the need to sniff or wipe their noses while reading this article 🙂 This period, when we are more familiar with epidemics and infectious diseases; on the one hand, it also prepares a suitable ground for observing the panic created by the unknowns and misconceptions about epidemics. Although we have experienced panic a lot with the introduction of the coronavirus into our lives, we think there is more to talk about. Today, we will talk about the intersection of panic and HIV.
Although panic is not specific to HIV, HIV panic is different from other infectious infections such as hepatitis or scabies. So much so that this panic sometimes prevents efforts to improve the health conditions of people living with HIV, and sometimes even makes them hesitate to get a diagnosis.
Today, HIV is still not only a health issue. You may have noticed that when conducting studies on HIV, the topic often turns to sexuality. The subject of HIV often creates images of sexuality in the thought worlds of those who talk about it. The fact that sexuality is still taboo in the culture we live in and is experienced among many sexual orientations and gender identities makes HIV vulnerable to both moralistic and LGBTI+ phobic attacks. In this respect, HIV differs from other infectious infections. These discriminatory attitudes towards HIV can also prevent the long-standing achievements of medicine from being heard. For these reasons, we would like to mention one of the achievements of medicine on HIV.
We also want to tell you about one of the biggest violations of the rights on HIV. In the northern part of Cyprus, non-citizens are deported when it is learned that they are living with HIV. Such a practice has no ethical basis in terms of neither medical nor human rights. This HIV panic, which is created due to lack of knowledge and awareness, can also be used to spread stigma, homophobia, racism and hostility towards refugees. A few months ago, speculative news about 1000 new HIV cases in the southern part of Cyprus fuelled prejudice and hatred against refugees. Although these reports do not reflect the truth, the phenomenon of migration is an issue that needs to be considered. In this context, panic gains a special role in the HIV issue.
Have you ever heard of U=U before?
U=U stands for undetectable = untransmittable. Thanks to treatments for HIV infection, the level of the virus in the blood of people living with HIV can be reduced to an undetectable level within a few months. This is called U=U. Even if a person in U=U status has unprotected sex, this does not lead to HIV transmission. We think it is already known that hugging, kissing, living in the same house, eating from the same plate, and using the same clothes-toilet, regardless of U=U status, does not cause HIV transmission 🙂
What is December 1?
In 1994, the World Health Organization declared December 1 as World HIV/AIDS Day to draw attention to support, participation and global cooperation in the work to be done on HIV and AIDS.
What can be done?
One of the most important aspects of living with HIV is access to treatment. Stigmatization and discrimination against people living with HIV are social barriers as well as financial barriers that make access to treatment difficult. It is essential to be diagnosed in order to start treatment. In order to prevent stigmatization at the stage of diagnosis, free anonymous testing centres established in many countries of the world should also be established in the northern part of Cyprus. Today, fully anonymous, free-of-charge testing centres have not been established due to the lack of personnel allowances. The lack of such a test centre prevents the establishment of HIV policies and opens the door to stigmatization and discrimination.
In order to end years of discrimination, social exclusion and rights violations, we demand that HIV be included in public health policies as soon as possible and that free anonymous testing centres, which are essential equipment in this regard, be established. At this point, it is very important that you raise awareness and fight together with us.