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THE MONSTER IS DEALING WITH MY COMMUNITY – HIV/AIDS

I am pressed but not crushed by this pain that is ceaselessly ailing my heart. The road seems to be rough, but I believe it means to strengthen me, not kill me. The pain of every woman in my community is my pain; I suffer when they suffer. Many times I fail to understand why on earth these people will have to go through this. I try to confront this challenge that pains and agonize my community to the point that life seems to unbearable.

I live in Selibe – Phikwe, a copper nickel mining town in the Central District of Botswana. Selibe – Phikwe remains the town with the highest HIV prevalence rate in our country, at 40% among women and 21.4% among men. Selibe- Phikwe is also rated number one in the country when it comes to people on antiretroviral drugs (ARV) and people being treated for the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT). The Selibe – Phikwe District Coordinator , Mr. Lameck Myengwa said a lot needs to be done to understand the factors contributing to the spiraling number of infections. There is a need for the town and the district to undertake serious research on this issue and he assures that the community has been funded to conduct a study/ research. He thinks the study will help confront this problem and that he does not know why Selibe – Phikwe is the hardest hit. I, however, cannot steer my mind away from the behavior and practices that my community embarks on.

I tell you, there is nothing I could blame our government for; the government has done its part and it is continuing to protect and give Batswana good health. I believe the problem is the fault of a generation of people who act as if do not know the purpose of their existence on Planet Earth. So much has been done to combat the disease, but still the stiff necked people will ignore the advice and swim in a poisonous virus. It is difficult to come up with effective interventions and the clinics have done much to fight this disease, but since the community’s behavior does not change, the monster still rests among men and women.

I have lived in this community ever since I was born. The noise from the cars, the noise from bars and drunkards, the noise from depots, the noise from shebeens sets the stage for this story about the people in my community. They drink like tomorrow they will be no more.
All different kinds of men are here, well paid, but some of them are illiterate. Since these people are well paid, money is not an issue to them. It is painful that these well paid men, they have luxurious cars and life is very enjoyable. Meanwhile, girls who have thrown away their school pen, seem to believe matriculation is a gate pass to living recklessly. They embark on drinking beer and smoking,socializing too much and forgetting even what they promised themselves in life. In the presence of the men, these girls become the victims of rape, early pregnancy, as well infection. Soon the very girl who was so beautiful will be like an old lady, looking more like a beggar on the streets. These girls tend to swallow before they chew and thus they get choked with the thorns of life leaving them helpless and poverty stricken.

Since the breakout of this disease life has never been the same. Three people walking in front of you, you must know that out of the three, two are infected, if not all of them; the odds are that grave. In the time before treatment and drugs arrived, this small town truly was faced with extinction. The disease destroyed so many lives. As a result of this disease the government is busy feeding and taking orphans to the schools. The disease took to both men and women. It is not a respecter of any person, but especially those who live recklessly will encounter the trauma of this monster. For those who are infected, life becomes a living hell once people discover your status. Discrimination commences, losing of friends and so many things oppress your soul. In many cases, once the victims discover that they are positive, they resort to hanging themselves or drinking poisonous substances. But with the help of life-saving ARV DRUGS, some people are able to win back their confidence, strength, and beauty.

In 2009, the town mayor was restless with the desire to save the community.As a way of combating the disease, he tirelessly approached every church in different places in town, appealing to them to help with how they can get rid of HIV/AIDS .In fact, his speech was more like a cry. Though his tears were not rolling down, I could see and feel them. The church vowed to tackle the scourge that has hit our mining town. Selibe-Phikwe Churches Committee Coordinator, Pastor Teemane, said in an interview that the only way to win the battle is to change the people’s behavior. According to him, they have set one month aside for prayers. He further mentioned that that they are aware of the fact that this town is leading when it comes to the HIV/AIDS infection across the country.
The behavior of people is so hard. You will feel like deserting them but you will come back to their aid again. All methods have been tried .One preacher even used the word ‘promiscuous’ to describe our people. From some vantage points, it appears to be a generation of people who are dedicated to the sin of immorality. Alcohol is abused and once drunk, most people become careless.

The president has tried to address this behavior at its root by increasing prices for beer, but still the more people will be hungry and thirsty for beer. He instituted a later hour for opening the bars, but as soon as they are open the game starts. As for the outcome after hours of drinking, I really can’t tell, it sores the heart. I have seen men praise beer, telling how their ancestors brewed, and it disgusts me. Some might criticize me with how I look at this, but in truth, it is not about beer drinking, but about the irresponsibility people show as a result. Posters have been erected to stop and reduce alcohol use, as well HIV/AIDS awareness billboards, but no one gives heed to all these. Instead, they make fun of them.
Although Botswana’s economic outlook remains strong, the devastation that HIV/AIDS has caused threatens to destroy the country’s future. For instance, in 2001, Botswana had the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the world, amounting to 350,000 of its 1.6 million people. Imagine this and youthe thread of distinction that we faced. I thank God our then President, President Mogae, appealed to the international community, and because of him, the International Donors launched an ambitious National Campaign enabling free ARV drugs to be given to all sick people in this country.

It is of great concern in my life, yet I believe I can do all things, regardless. There is still a way out. Botswana must make wellness its wealth. If this disease continues like this we are doomed, but I have a message. To all mothers in my country, we need to rise. We can start with our homes to deal with our young ones to be genuine mothers of tomorrow because women and children are the answer in every society. I will not tolerate a situation whereby I raise up a child the next thing she is all over me . Mothers, we need to empower our children, and especially our daughters. Therefore instead of criticizing our societies and fellow men, let us do what is good to change the bad we see.

Let us walk in the light of love. We should be known for our love, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or geographical location. Love that sees beyond HIV/AIDS and the stigma of those who are infected! Love that sees beyond hatred: even when we are hated, we should love. Love that sees beyond intimidation: even when we are intimidated, we should love. Love that sees beyond persecution. I wish to be my brother’s keeper, not my brother’s destroyer. Nothing happens by chance. In the course of my life, I have seen those who succeed and those who choose to fail, leading me to my belief that life is all about choice. I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread. Today, I choose to support my community; they are my pain for some of them are hopeless they do not know what the meaning of life.Confusion has taken control. The Virus has grieved them so much.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Hi Warona!

Sister, the way you tackle HIV/AIDS in this piece, it really is a monster! And you are right, sister ... that the bigger issue is not poverty but morality. The people have to be educated. Individuals and society have to re-examine their values and see through the lens of compassion and understanding. Maybe government has its lapses, too. But we cannot blame government or anyone for our condition, particularly if we are not even conscious of our own welfare. First and foremost, we help ourselves. All the best ....

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

warona's picture

oh my God so touching

My dearest Emie,

Indeed, self intro spection is very important to my country men.When its imorality,like how see the behavior of these people.Thank you Emie for your comment you are such a blessing to me.

Cheers and lots of love

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

Kristin Miller's picture

Excellent work!

Warona, I am so, so pleased with how this turned out! You have put a lot of hard work into this and it has certainly paid off.

Kudos to you, Warona, for a job well done!

Kristin

warona's picture

MY MILLER!

My dearest Kristin,

Thank you thousand times, you have actually taken me through, am excited too,so very grateful .Words cannot express how i feel now.Thank you for your wonderful comment.

All the beat to us

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

Ruun Abdi's picture

Dearest Warona, This is

Dearest Warona,

This is beautifully written piece and The way you coped with HIV/AIDS in your post is indeed a remarkable one.

Cheers,
RA

warona's picture

Thats great dear

Dear gal

Thank you for supporting my voice gal, you are so amazing to me dear

All the best once more

wama!

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

CoachMarcie's picture

Hi Warona

I enjoyed reading your assignment. The reality of the problems in your community are very compelling. I agree that we must empower the mothers and daughters to live their best life. I loved how honest you were and can look at the problems with hope and sadness at the same time.

Best,
Coach Marcie

Best,
Marcie

warona's picture

Oh coah Marcie!

Dear Marcie,

Its nice to hear from you.This is an amazing time in my life.Things has never been the same.This is the reallity of the situation here.I want to empowere girl child.You know when we start with the roots i tell you we will never go wrong.I hope one day people in my community will be sober. starting to realise themselves , no more grudges and abuses that i often hear among women and children.

Thank my dear Marcie

Greateful

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

Rudzanimbilu's picture

Well done Warona

HIV/AIDS is a deadly disease and I am so proud of you for writing about it and for sharing your thoughts about your community Warona. Keep up the good work.

Rudzanimbilu Muthambi

warona's picture

Dear Rudzani, Indeed a deadly

Dear Rudzani,

Indeed a deadly one,its a concern because people in this town i dont where do they get the drive to live recklessly in this mess.I believe soon i will be exposing the hidden truths about the root cause of this monster.

Thank you so much for your comment my dear.Kip your light there.Lets rock this world gal.May God sustain us.

All the best sister to you!

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

Farona's picture

Wow Warona ! This is indeed

Wow Warona !

This is indeed a monster, I couldn't agree more with your title.....one may understand something is terribly wrong when women infection rate are way higher than men.

"wellness is wealth" Yes ! how can a community progress when women are infected with deadly diseases...

" The pain of every woman in my community is my pain; I suffer when they suffer." that's the way forward sis - if every women feels this way, we know we can change a whole lot things

Cheers sis

warona's picture

Indeed!indeed!indeed!

Dear Farona!

I am so thankful to God because am busy searching.I want to know really whats the root cause of the bad behaviour.Women in my community will know this truth and they will be set free.I believe if you know the truth about something you cannot easily and reklessly throw yoursel into that thing.They will fear for their lives and thus they will live to testify . I really suffer everyday,no man ,no ones sees my pain.These youth have become a problem.They swallow before they chew,due to poverty.Oh Farona life is unbearable for them.If only they can be empowered all this will be history.

Thank you Farona for your comment.

All the best

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

Farona's picture

Yes sister ! investigate,

Yes sister ! investigate, search for the truth --- God has given each one of us the power to change. You are the lantern of your community ;- )
Each one us are not heard or taken seriously in our community that's why we are here ! When we do the most challenging things, initially nobody listens. I feel your pain sister, I feel you want to write more and more! and I say keep writing and writing.

Arghhh most youth swallow before they chew ! if only they knew the consequences .......sigh

With love and admiration ;- )

Potter's picture

"Botswana must make wellness

"Botswana must make wellness its wealth." That is a powerful statement, Warona. Botswana must be applauded for providing antivirals free to the infected. Botswana among African nations is a successful, relatively wealthy country. What better way to apply that wealth than to agressively address the AIDS crisis. Behavior is hard to change. Voices like yours have the potential to make an impact. Keep talking. Keep writing. Your community needs you and you are there for them!

warona's picture

Am a troubled woman!

Dear Potter,

With all my heart ,soul and body i mean what am saying.If only Botswana can consider their wellness i think the ill health of this country will be addressed.

Thank you so much dear Potter for your comment,am so encouraged.

Greateful

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

lisastjohn's picture

Warona, I had the honor of

Warona,

I had the honor of being the Correspondent who read your heartfelt piece about the AIDS epidemic in your country.

The pain and frustration you feel about the ravages of the disease on your community and country was viseral. Your words were imbued with a strong sentiment of love for your neighbors and countrywomen and men. Your writing is strong, intelligent, poetic and passionate.

It is disheartening to read about the statistics you cited. Especially about the ratio of men and women afflicted with the disease.

If the drinking you describe is alcoholic, then for those who may have an alcohol problem, all morality goes out the window, even with great intentions of safe sex, or no sex. As I read your work, I wondered if there is any access in your community or neighboring communities to the the global organization of Alcoholics Anonymous?

I am not suggesting all those who are drinking excessively are alcoholic. Perhaps those that are would be able to get help and help others?

We need your voice so keep writing.

Blessings,
Lisa St. John

warona's picture

Hello Lisa,Yes my dear

Hello Lisa,

Yes my dear sister Lisa.HIV/AIDS is a real problem for me. I have seen innocent girls under siege,i have seen big mamas under siege.Looking at them you will discover their fate.Being given the drugs: some of them they dont want to drink pills rather they prefer injection.But there is no such thing around here of receiving the drugs in that way. Yes at least you have identified the reality of my frastration.It affects me so much more so that am left wondering most of the time.Lisa if you dare visit them ,you will discover a lot.There is no peace, no food,no clothes,nothing ,yet the scourge is souring most of the families.

I think we have a problem.The exessive consumption of alcohol contribute health problems as we already say, traffic accidents.So many people are dead,why because of drinking and driving.Well reseaches are being made with regard to the way people drink.However, it is well documented that different drinking patterns of countries
may skew the results of a valid comparison of consumption rates. Alcohol abuse and alcohol-related crimes are on the increase; mainly young adults (18-35 years) abused alcohol; and alcohol abuse leads to various social problems.

If in your house lisa when things are like this will you keep quiet,oh definetely a big no!So this is how things are in my country,am so restless. i wont keep quit, silence kills, other innocent are suffering out there .I believe there is a way out.We shall make it.

Thank you so much for your comment my dear its so uplifting and encouraging.You are such an amazing woman you have heart for other people,God bless you so much.

Greateful and thankful

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

mrbeckbeck's picture

Hi Warona

This is a great article Warona. You are certainly on the frontlines of dealing with a monster of a problem, and you show us here how torn-apart you feel about it, and give us plenty of background information and statistics to clarify the problem.

How do you change a person's mind and attitudes? Speaking up is crucial, through awareness and education people can be better informed... but, then it is up to them in the time of decision. Alcohol definitely impairs decision making, and it's devastating to think of the consequences that come from this in your community.... It is heartbreaking to think of so many young women (and men) being needlessly brought closer to their death-beds. I hope that day-by-day people start acting like there's something to live for, a beautiful world and life ahead of them.

Thank you for speaking up here and sharing your personal vision for that brighter day ahead. Keep up the great work my dear... the world needs you!

Best,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Manager

warona's picture

Hi Scott

Yes Scott this is our biggest challenge in Botswana Scott,well i see a lot of NGOs at work and organisations in order to combat the scourge.However our government also appealed to all these NGOs to support in the fight.Yes so many young women endure the pain of being affected. The illeterate sees it all,the poverty striken also are under siege , these mine men when it comes to women they are merciles.I hope to share a lot on the next module pertaining to why is it that Selibe - phikwe is highly infected.I hope somebody somewhere is listening and just pray they keep themslelves distance from immorality.

Anyway thanks for your comment Scott.Cheers!

Thankful

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

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