MTV Staying Alive: Silence Not HIV is the Real Killer


HIV prevention is impossible without talking about the disease. One youth-focussed organisation in Botswana is breaking the silence.

You can never get to the heart of the issue if it is not talked about. And when it comes to HIV, this kind of silence is deadly.

My mother died because of this silence. I was only 6 when I bid her goodbye. Upon her death, I became an orphan. No child should grow up without a mother—I did, becauseantiretrovirals, the drugs commonly used to treat HIV, were not easily available in in Botswana 16 years ago.

Disclosing the cause of her death was not an option, to do so would be a social death sentence. My friends would inquisitively ask: “what happened to your mother?”. I would respond saying something like kidney failure or simply not say anything at all. Secrecy made the burden even tougher to bare.

My grandparents—who became my caretakers—never explicitly told me what happened to my mom. I was uncomfortable asking them because I knew that questions regarding HIV were taboo.

From an early age, I equated HIV with suffering and knew not to ask my elders questions about it.

We can only talk about HIV/AIDS in whispers, in codes, and in dark corridors but not with family. Such silence is sometimes worse than HIV itself, leading to internal death.

I made the choice to become part of a revolutionary movement: Young 1ove, which is a youth-focussed sexual-health charity in Botswana supported by MTV Staying Alive.

Young 1ove talk about tough issues, like HIV and cultural norms such as young girls getting with sugar daddies for social status and money.

We barge into schools (with government support, of course), and tackle such issues head-on.

We make talking about subjects like sugar daddies and HIV accessible, rather than taboo. Our model is powerful: we send in young, energetic open-minded youth to talk to the youth. And it works.

We open the flood gates to talk about HIV, empower youth to understand this disease and thus avoid it. We shatter the silence.

If only my mother was so lucky. Maybe she would have been empowered, and maybe then I’d still have a mother today.

Find out more about Young 1ove here.

Donate here to support youth-led organisations like Young 1ove.

(Image credit: Steve Jurvetson)

Post originally by MTV Staying Alive :

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