Awareness about the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has been growing in recent years. No longer is it a disease that everyone is constantly afraid of contracting. There are people who are living with HIV in the everyday Singaporean society. HIV has been an even hotter topic since public figure and celebrity Jonathan Van Ness recently came out as HIV-positive. In Singapore, approximately 8,295 residents as of end 2018 is HIV-positive, which means that it is very possible that you may know someone who is HIV-positive. Most HIV-positive people decide to keep their status undisclosed partly because it could affect their employability, promotion and career. However, if you ever do know a person with HIV, your support and understanding of their condition could mean the world to them. HIV, while no longer a life-threatening condition, can still be heavily stigmatised in modern Singapore. In this article, we will share with you three possible ways that you can be supportive of anyone you know living with HIV.
Know your HIV facts
There are some Singaporeans who are constantly afraid of HIV transmission to the point where they are unwilling to come into contact with anyone who has the virus. This is not only hurtful to HIV-positive people around them but also discriminatory. It makes these people feel as if they are defined by their illness, which is not true. Scientific research has shown that the only ways HIV can be transmitted are through sexual contact with an infected party or through shared needle use. HIV cannot be transmitted when sharing utensils, sharing toilet seats or kissing. Another common misconception is that HIV is only transmitted among homosexual men. There is currently an equal number of both heterosexual and homosexual people who have contracted HIV. Being aware of these misconceptions will help make you a better ally to those who may need your support.
That said, knowing these HIV-related facts is often insufficient in creating a warm environment for the HIV-positive friend. It is often the simple gestures to make them feel more inclusive that counts. Simple things such as offering to hang out or including them in groups will make an HIV-positive person feel more welcome in that social circle. You may even want to bring your friend for their regular check-ups at HIV clinics in Singapore, as they may sometimes need emotional support. Treating HIV-positive people as you would any other person shows a sign of solidarity and understanding that the person is someone who is valued in a social circle and is more than just their status.
With regular anti-retroviral medicines available from HIV clinics, HIV patients are able to live long and healthy lives. However, they must first be willing to take the medicine. As with any type of medications, there are some potential side effects. These medicines may also cost quite a bit of money and so may require some financial planning or assistance. But the easiest thing to do is to remind these individuals to take their medications exactly as prescribed, as it could be life-threatening otherwise. Being encouraging to those going through this journey can mean a lot to someone who may still be emotionally coping with their understanding of their status.
Being a supportive friend to those who are HIV-positive does not only improve the life of that individual but also can help improve society’s outlook towards HIV as a whole.