THE FORGOTTEN EPIDEMIC – WHY HIV/AIDs IS SPREADING IN GAMBIA LIKE BUSH FIRE

2050
THE FORGOTTEN EPIDEMIC – WHY HIV/AIDs IS SPREADING IN GAMBIA LIKE BUSH FIRE

A Gambian hustler, roughly aged 50 years returned from Angola where he has been hustling for many years. He is now rich. Just as every man has a good taste for young women, he decided to marry a 19 year old girl. By the way, 19 is an adult (so no big deal). A few months later, the 19 year old girl got pregnant. As part of routine tests for all pregnant women in Gambia, she was counselled and tested for HIV and results came back positive!

A young 19 year old woman, who has her whole life ahead of her, has her life devastated forever by a man/ a partner/ a husband who knows quite well that he has HIV/AIDS.

Wait a minute! But that man must be heartless and ruthless! How can he sleep with his wife (a young innocent woman) when he knows full well he has HIV and could infect her?
Well, the good news is that, he has no legal obligation to tell his wife or any of his sexual partners that he is HIV positive!
The current laws in the Gambia state that a HIV positive man or woman is free to disclose or hide his/her status to his spouses and sexual partners. So it’s up to him. If he wants, he can hide his status and continue fucking around infecting the whole country! You got me right!

In the 21st century, it is sad and pathetic that the Government of the Gambia, health authorities and civil society organizations decide to bury their ‘brains’ in a mass grave and make laws that, not only does not protect us, but continue to endanger our lives every day!

A few months ago, the health ministry went to the extent of revealing names and identities of Covid positive patients on the mass media because they have absconded. Why disclose them? Because they pose an imminent public health risk! To put it simply, they will infect others and put their lives at risk!

Yet, funnily, everyone knows how serious HIV/AIDs is, yet, in the Gambia, the law protects HIV/AIDs patients and they have no obligation to reveal their status to their partners even though a Grade 6 student knows clearly that a HIV infected patient poses a 100% risk to his sexual partners.

A man infected with HIV who has four wives is free to either tell his wives or not. If he wishes not to tell them, so be it! His four wives can get infected and go to hell. The law is on his side. Nothing will come out of it!

Do we have to wait till 2021, to say: Gambians wake up!

In the UK, just like the US and other developed countries with better human rights profile, HIV and all STIs (gonorrhea, Chlamydia, herpes etc) are notifiable diseases, i.e, they must be reported to the partners by law. If a person contracts HIV or any STI, the law requires of that person, that all his/her sexual partners are informed in a timely manner. In instances a person does not feel comfortable facing their partner, hospitals have specialized services called “Partner Notification Services” and partners of infected HIV patients are quickly informed so that they can take preventative measures. For those who insist on hiding their status from their partners, the law obliges the health care provider to break confidentiality and inform sexual partners of a HIV infected patient, so that they take precaution. Doesn’t that make more sense?

Protecting HIV/AIDs infected patients from stigma and discrimination is hugely important. However, to think that the current Gambia law on HIV/AIDs ensures such protection is, not only self-deceiving but a fuel to an epidemic that is getting out of control.

By a concerned Gambian
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