By Amin Kef, Freetown.
I fear Sierra Leone is sitting on top of a HIV and Hepatitis epidemic that is not being acknowledged. Many are dying from HIV related illnesses, but families are keeping it under wraps. I know many cases of ’e die befo en time’ , ’Dem shoot am with witch gun’ ......that were due to HIV related issues. Rich and poor.
There is a conspiracy of silence. The victims, their families and the government are in an unnegotiated alliance to avoid talking about it. I am guilty of it too. Many funerals I have attended recently were triggered by HIV. But I have kept my mouth shut and not shared what I know. If the family wants it quiet how can I say something? This is going to explode a couple of years down the line. For now, we keep attending the funerals and ask no probing questions.
The saddest part is that HIV is no longer a terminal illness and treatment is free. But we don’t go for tests, we don’t use condoms and we take pride in the expression ’inside Salone we all nah mate .........’ Husband has a ’pekito’. Pekito has her boyfriend. Wife has her regular sideline. That sideline has his main line. Round and round the juices flow.......and by the time most realise they have HIV the damage to internal systems is so great doctors can no longer do much.
In Uganda HIV is a FAMILY problem. There is no stigma. Everyone supports the victims. Families monitor viral loads, watch out for symptoms and ensure victims take medication. This is where we need to be.
This is my prayer for Easter. God bless our country and God bless us all.