Gugu Dlamini is one of the first South African women to have disclosed, in public and in the Zulu language, her HIV status. She revealed her status on radio and television during an AIDS prevention and information campaign. As a result, the young woman, 36 years old at the time of the facts, was stoned and stabbed in the township where she lived (Heneke, 2016). Although her public disclosure was not worth it for herself (she ended up dying) or her family (her daughter was left an orphan and the community never wanted her), the disclosure brought benefits for her community and country. Her death underscored and provided new urgency to the XII International AIDS conference theme of time to Break the Silence. It was her death that encouraged persons infected and affected with HIV/AIDS to speak out and educate their communities concerning persons with HIV/AIDS and the transmission of the virus. Gugu's death forced HIV/AIDS activists in South Africa and globally to reassess their methods and strategies in addressing HIV/AIDS stigma.
The South African National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS and the KwaZulu Natal Department of Health encouraged people with HIV/AIDS to disclose their HIV infection. Gugu became a volunteer and publicly acknowledged her HIV infection to the press. Gugu reported that she had been threatened repeatedly and attacked several times. Her assaulters were even reported to the police, but they did nothing. However, even the organizations that encouraged her to speak up did not support her in any way. She kept explaining to them that her life was in danger, but no action was taken. There are several things that those groups would have done. First, they would have taken her to a more secure neighborhood. Gugu lived in a poverty-stricken area where violence and crime levels were high. Her public disclosure of her status made her a target. Secondly, the groups should have pressured the government to act and arrest those who had attacked her before. These arrests could have sent a strong message that any form of violence was not tolerated. Third, Gugu always said she was afraid to go home alone, but the various groups and organizations did not give her any security or accompaniment. She was left all alone. Maybe her death would have been avoided if the different groups that encouraged her to speak up would have fully supported her.
Disclosure of Stigmatizing Conditions
There are several benefits of HIV disclosure. First, one will have the support of friends and family, and this will help in dealing with any shame that the infected person may be feeling (Samuel, 2020). Secondly, it will also foster a sense of closeness among family and friends as they try to help the patient in every way they can. There are many emotional and psychological effects of HIV/AIDS, and when one has the support system of his/her loved ones, this will make things easier (Catona et al., 2015). Thirdly, it also reduces the chances of transmitting the disease to others and results in an increased sense of trust among those in intimate relationships (Samuel, 2020). It also provides an avenue of discussing how one's partner can be protected, for example, by using condoms. Fourth, it also reduces the stress of keeping the HIV secret, and it also ensures that the patient has the best medical care and treatment from doctors.
However, there are also other disadvantages of disclosing one's status. First, it makes the person more vulnerable to stigma and discrimination. Infected people are denied employment, education, treatment, or care, as well as the right to confidentiality in the hospital setting (Catona et al., 2015). Blaming, social censorship or discrimination in employment motivate hundreds of people with HIV/AIDS in developed areas and with solid democracies to hide their situation to protect themselves from rejection, to safeguard rights, which are fundamental (Samuel, 2020). Openly disclosing status can also lead to physical danger from violence and rejection. It may also result in unfair dismissal from the workplace, and if this is not the case, fellow workmates may discriminate against the victim.
There are several reasons why women are more likely to respond to HIV/AIDS education in their communities compared to them. Some men perceive HIV infection as a death sentence and therefore prefer to avoid knowing the existence of the infection (Jeffries et al., 2015). Unlike men, it is women who step to the forefront in responding to HIV/AIDS and working to support and educate their communities. Unlike men, women who become involved in the HIV field and take part in self-help groups experience fewer negative feelings about their HIV infection (Mambanga et al., 2016). Many women have other backgrounds that make it more likely that they will be exposed to stigmatization and discrimination in their lives. It is, therefore, necessary for them to have programs tailored to the different life situations of women with HIV, which support them in dealing with and coping with negative experiences. This also includes the promotion of self-help structures that enable exchange and support among one another.
Thus, there are several human rights implications of a woman being killed because of disclosing her status. In the context of people with HIV/AIDS, this situation generates a violation of human rights (Sircar et al., 2019). Discriminatory actions, in this case, are unacceptable and violate the fundamental human rights of the victim. The Convention on Human Rights recognizes that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and endowed as they are with reason and conscience; they must behave fraternally with each other. Therefore, any form of discrimination affects the dignity of the people who suffer it (Sircar et al., 2019). All those who killed Gugu should have been arrested and charged with murder for taking away an innocent life.
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