Every Social Worker Should Be Challenged by HIV and AIDS Scourge
HIV and AIDS touches the professional lives of almost all contemporary social workers before they retire and social work as a profession can be justly proud of pioneering work done by different social workers from the onset of the AIDS health crisis in the developing psycho-social services of singular diversity and effectiveness that reach out to people both infected and affected.
This year world AIDS day is making its 30th anniversary. Significant progress has been made in the response since 1988 and today three (3) in four (4) people with HIV know their status (according to UNAIDS latest report).
In Uganda, about 1.3 million people are living with HIV. At least 73% of adults and 68% of children are on antiretroviral treatment (ART). Currently, the new infections are 50,000 annually having dropped from more than 90,000 two years ago).
HIV testing is essential for expanding treatment and ensuring that all people living with HIV can be lead healthy and productive lives. It is crucial to achieving the 90-90-90 targets and empowering people make choices about HIV prevention so they can protect themselves and their loved ones.
The barriers to HIV testing remain stigma and discrimination, access to confidential HIV testing and many people still only get tested after becoming ill and symptomatic.
With all these barriers, social workers should be challenged by HIV/AIDS because of the social injustice attached to it by the different members of the society that more so causes stigma and discrimination and yet they have a crucial role to play.
Social workers should carefully and professionally assess the clients to see them as individuals and not categorize them as being at risk or not at risk because any one can be infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.
Social workers need to also be prepared to deal with people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS through offering the much need counseling and physco-social support, empower ill and dying clients by maximizing their options to live and to die when want and also give them hope because many people with AIDS are living longer with better quality lives.
Social workers need to also recognize education through sensitization as a key strategy in tackling the epidemic and education efforts should be focused on safe sex strategies and prevention efforts which must begin at an early age, respect the unique needs of the population at risk and all these must be accompanied by care, treatment and support interventions.
Social workers should appreciate the different refresher courses and get more updates about HIV /AIDS that include new prevention methods, care modals and many others that will in turn help them sensitize both infected and affected by HIV/AIDS
Professional partnerships with people living with HIV/AIDS should be done by social workers. HIV/AIDS is a serious threat to health and development therefore commitment from every one is essential in society putting the major basic social values of self determination, dignity for worth of all individuals, integrity at a fore front.
A client (names withheld) who is on ART was interviewed and he said.
“My father died of AIDS when I was 10 years old but before, my mum thought they had bewitched him therefore they decided to take him to different shrines such that he may be healed. They later took him to the hospital, he was tested and they disclosed to us that he was HIV positive, my mum was tested too she was found HIV positive and later we were all tested and we were positive, started medication and we are now living a good life. I therefore encourage everybody to know their status.” They also commended the role of a social worker who listened and encouraged them to speak their pain and suffering which helped them in dealing with isolation, suffering accompanied with stigma and shame of the illness after knowing their status.
Robert F Kennedy Once said let no one be discouraged by the belief; there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills, misery, ignorance and violence. Few will have the greatness to bend history. But each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And in total all those acts will be written in the history of a generation. (remarks made at university of cape town south Africa,6th June 1996)
Social worker’s response should be recorded as one of the finest during the public health crisis by not shying away from working with people living with HIV/AIDS in the country.
Today as a social worker I join the rest of the world in raising awareness about the importance of knowing ones’ status and calling for removal of all barriers to accessing HIV testing.
By Aidah Nanyongo
NASWU Program Intern