Building Support System For People Living With HIV

By Ekene Odigwe


Research has shown that non -communicable diseases are becoming a growing problem in people with HIV. It is also documented that some antiretroviral drugs may increase the risk of heart diseases and diabetes while HIV itself increases the risk of some cancers.

Toyyib Oladimeji Abdulkareem a health advocates and the convener of The Wellbeing Initiative explains that these things happen because of the alterations that the infection causes to the body.

He opines that for specific diseases, the pathological pathway to disease onset would be followed through research works bearing in mind the infection affects the immune system and other body organs.

Getting help from others has been proven to be the first step towards getting through a health crisis for PLWHIV. It is liberating, fulfilling and helps them all heal or conquer what beats them down faster. Question is how do people living with HIV go about getting this help in the face of increasing stigmatization from others, which fuels resentment in them?

Hart Kingsley Akabuike, the Head, HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) unit 82 division at the Military Hospital, Enugu, Nigeria agrees that stigma can emanate from self or people.

He said that in recent years the struggle of people living with HIV opening up to the public has reduced but not as much as anticipated by the United Nations project 9; there’s still this rejection that comes if one discloses ones HIV status when applying for work, for instance.

The employer tend to withdraw the offer or come up with an excuse that the position is already filled; then there’s the learning environment which unfortunately is another breeding ground for stigma and discrimination.

Nonetheless, support comes in many forms and places. Example is motivating a friend or a family who is living with HIV by way of encouraging them to stay on treatment, practice safe sex and positively reminding them that they can still live a healthy life and achieve their dreams.

It is on record that for the 1.1 million persons living with HIV are currently on treatment in Nigeria. For them, families could be the major support system because there’s no substitute for family and friendship.

Psychotherapists believe that helping someone with HIV can be stressful but very rewarding too, because aside the emotional support, one might be helping them figure out how to work through the medical system.

Truth is around 1 in 3 persons living with HIV have symptoms of depression at some point in their lives. Social and mental support is such an important factor in developing and maintaining healthy lifestyle and mental wellbeing behaviours.

It is important that we consciously lend our support to loved ones as it is a scary thing not being able to confide in anyone of your deepest fears or worries for the fear of been judged or discriminated against. If we remember everyday that we could lose someone at any moment, we would show love to them more fiercely and without fear- not because there is nothing to lose, but everything to gain.

@Ekeneodigwe is an OAP @coalcity929fm, Human Rights Ambassador @projects_human,

SDGs Champion & Social media campaigner

#Activista with 7 Major honors & 3 Fellowship awards