My career in development started at an HIV orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. I was a volunteer at the Home for 2years and even though I witnessed success stories of what ARVs did to the children, I could not stop thinking of millions of other Kenyans who could not access the vital drugs and were dying in despair.
During my time at the home, I looked after 32 boys ages between 5 and 21. The majority of them now are teenagers, living normal lives and actually some are in university pursuing careers. I always smile whenever I receive their friendship request on Facebook.
Fast forward, it is 2011 and the world will be celebrating World Aids day under the banner, "Getting to Zero."
Really? When are we going to get there? And how? There is no doubt progress has been made especially in Africa ever since the virus first came to light in 1980s. But the road still looks long and stiff. Discrimination is still rife and most of people living with HIV still cannot access the vital drugs and services. Majority of African countries still cannot provide for HIV patients and this has been accepted as a norm.
A country like Swaziland, with highest HIV prevalent rate in the world, has no money to acquire drugs but the world has said it is OK. It is still a shock and shame that people still associate HIV with promiscuity.
The world is yet to accept and incorporate people living positively with HIV in decision making. There are millions of HIV related development projects mostly in Africa countries with decision makers staying in their ivory tower offices.
This exclusive group live in their own bubble and claim to know the sufferings of poor, vulnerable people living with HIV. They drive big cars when visiting communities and during any launch, it can only be done in 5 star places and it is by invitation only. They attend workshops week in week out trotting around the globe.
It is not OK for a country to be so poor that it cannot provide for its own citizen and business still be as usual. It is not enough just to mention that money for free primary education for vulnerable children in Kenya was stolen and move on. Citizens of the countries need to say zero to corrupt leaders. For us to get into zero, everyone needs to be responsible and not assume that the war will be fought by different legions.
Making it to zero is not a tag of war where certain people referred as 'decision makers' hold one side and 'people with the virus' holding the other side, but it is a team work where we all put on same uniform and get involved.
We are only going to get into zero if everyone is involved, meaningful involvement. Let's listen to people living positively with the virus. Let them be part of the group that make decisions, let them not feel discriminated.