Africa-Press – Botswana. Providing support to people living with HIV can help them accept themselves and live long, healthy lives.

An HIV/AIDS activist from Lapologang Support Group, Ms Kenamona Tjirongo said gone were the days when the virus was seen as a death sentence.

Ms Tjirongo who was speaking at an international HIV/AIDS candle light memorial service recently, said one of the biggest challenges remaining was societal attitudes.

Organised by BONEPWA in collaboration with Lapologang Support Group under the theme: Together We Remember, Together We Heal, Through Love and Solidarity, the service was aimed at raising awareness and fostering community support for those affected by HIV/AIDS.

The service also aimed to honour the memory of those who lost their lives to HIV/AIDS as well as to unite the community in an effort to promote healing and solidarity.

Ms Tjirongo, who has been living with the virus for 16 years, revealed that having HIV did not mean someone was going to die, adding that most people with the virus could live long and healthy lives if they enrolled and adhered to treatment.

She said a strong support system could also help patients to open up about their status, cope with the disease and promote healing.

“Having been diagnosed with the virus in 2008, I accepted myself and easily disclosed my status to my family and the community and I am currently enjoying a great support from them. Every day my children will remind me to take my treatment and this makes me strong and healthier,” she added.

Currently, she said, her virus was undetectable because she was taking care of herself by adhering to treatment and encouraged others not to panic when diagnosed with HIV.

She said the virus could be managed effectively with medication and regular check-ups. Furthermore, she said people living with HIV, diagnosed and treated at an early stage could have a normal life expectancy.

Ms Tjirongo further noted that she joined Lapologang Support Group because of her desire to save lives by increasing education and awareness levels about HIV.

Every day she conducts sessions at the Sedie Clinic to assist and counsel those still in denial to accept themselves and live healthy.

The District Aids Coordinator, Mr Kebabonye Thamuku thanked the organisers of the event saying it was important to come together as a community united by compassion, remembrance and a shared commitment of healing.

“It is through our solidarity that we find solace, support and the courage to confront the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS head on. The disease knows no boundaries as it affects individuals of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life.

“In the face of adversity, we stand together, undeterred by stigma or discrimination; we stand as beacons of hope and advocate for change and champions of inclusivity and compassion,’ he added.

Furthermore, Mr Thamuku stressed the need to reaffirm commitment to combating HIV/AIDS on all fronts in future citing the redoubling of effort to ensure access to essential healthcare services including prevention, treatment and support.

He also emphasised the need for the community to amplify voices to advocate for polices that promote equality, dignity and human rights for all individuals affected by HIV/AIDS.

Together, he said, they could create a world where HIV/AIDS was no longer a source of fear or suffering but rather a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Lapologang Support Group project officer, Ms Kilano Sefo said the group was formed in 2008 by individuals who were both affected and infected by HIV/AIDS to complement health officials’ effort in creating awareness about HIV/AIDS.

High number of deaths, she said, motivated the group to work closely with the District Health Management Team to fight the spread of the virus.

She said members of the group had been placed in all the clinics in Maun to educate the community and encourage those affected by HIV to take treatment as prescribed by health practitioners.

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