Friday, December 01, 2006


It’s WORLD AIDS DAY. Which means you have to sit and think about this topic today, and how it affects you, as well as recognise how others are being affected and infected….

The theme this year is STOP AIDS - KEEP THE PROMISE.

Whether it is the promises donors have made, or governments, or individuals.

What are the promises you, in particular, have made around this topic?
-Is it to be faithful to your partner?
-Is it that through saying you love your partner you promise to protect them, which then means never putting them in danger by you having unprotected sex if you do have sexual relations with other people?
-Is it to look after yourself….and so get tested and know your HIV status for certain?
-Is it to help in the global fight against AIDS & so know your status, know as many of the facts as possible, help dispel myths, fight stigma and make everyone more aware & empowered?

-Is it to help through a hands-on approach, by volunteering at an AIDS Organisation, like the Topsy Foundation or Nkosi's Haven, or through donating money, food, clothes or school fees. Perhaps you promise to help out a Child-Headed Household or supporting a friend who is sick from AIDS?

From my side, I have promised (1) to keep up-to-date with being 100% certain of what is my HIV status. I went for an AIDS test at the Sandown Clinic at the end of June. I do need to go for the follow-up test to be 100% certain. Promise 1 still to be met then.

I call myself a peer counsellor. I have undergone the UNISA Care & Counselling course. It is a 4 month course through the Department of Applied Psychology. It cost me about R1500. You can start it at any time. It gives you the basic facts on all aspects of HIV – from the scientific elements of the virus, to basic care & basic medical aspects, it gives you the skills to do basic counselling, child education and to conduct workshops for adults, it explains the illnesses related to HIV and AIDS, as well as the legal aspects around the disease. I received 90% for the course. Wooo Hoooo!!

(2) My promise here is to build awareness of the disease and its complexity in my community and assist wherever I can.
This has taken me from last year’s World AIDS Day event at a school in Orange Farm, to counselling a woman with HIV, to answering anyone’s questions on the subject whether they phone me, email me, or just talk to me in a pub as a stranger. I have answered questions on where to get tested, whether I thought someone has been in a high risk situation, why mosquitoes cannot pass it on, dispelling the myths about conspiracies of how it started etc. My most recent request for information involves blood donations & also what is the deal with signing Cause of Death as AIDS on Death certificates, which I must start investigating.

And so, if you are wanting a question answered or just to receive a basic fact sheet I have drawn up on this topic, you are more than welcome to email me at champsheathen at yahoo dot co dot uk
(3) I promise to reply, as soon as possible for me. Sometimes this might involve me referring you further. Unfortunately today I forgot my HIV “Bibles” in the clutter that is my new household so if you get technical, I might only get back to you next week.

(4) I further promise to keep as up-to-date as possible on HIV and AIDS related information and news, topics and developments. This is NOT easy, but I do my best, I think. As you may notice by my frequent posting of HIV-related articles & current themes.

(5) I also promise to do my best to stay HIV negative. But I also recognise that I am a sexual being, and quite so at times. A while back I decided where my basic limits are “in bed” and I try to stick to those. I do not come from a culture of abstaining before marriage. I am empowered enough to be able to make decisions on my sexual behaviour, partners and wellbeing. Condoms are a fundamental requirement for me. No condom, no penetration. I have also decided I will not have sex with any guy I end up naked with. I enjoy "getting naked" but I have chosen that I will only have sex with few men in my life. This does not mean there are not other sexual activities I cannot engage in with my sexual partner(s), that are of low risk. I find the exploration of these activities to actually often enhance experiences. Everyone is different and so responds differently when you seek to have a great satisfactory experience without standard penetration.

And now that I think I have said a little too much about myself…. Which I have do purely in the hope that when you read this post you will be prompted to openly think about your own promises, your behaviour, your fears, your beliefs around HIV and AIDS. That you will engage now in open honest conversation with your family, colleagues, friends, employees, and most especially your partners today, this evening, this weekend etc.

All the best!!

At the moment there are many articles going around on this subject & here are a few links for you to explore today during coffee breaks:

- A friend requested stories about people living with HIV and AIDS, whether infected and/or affected. The Sunday Times has been running a campaign on this theme – Living with HIV: Everyone Knows Someone. You can read many stories on their site.

Also, AIDSAFARI by Adam Levin is an excellent book on this subject. He is a South African journalist who has been diagnosed with AIDS. He writes about how sick he was before ARV’s and how sick he was on ARVs but how they have helped him. Basically he describes his journey with this disease. My mother is forcing all her children to read this book to realise the reality of AIDS. It is well written and quick to read.

- The Mail & Guardian talks to Zackie Achmat (one of SA's greatest AIDS Activists) in the spirit of today, and asks him 10 questions around being HIV Positive, the Treatment Action Campaign which he heads, the Minister of Health (Manto) etc. Read it.

- An article by the UK Guardian, Our moral superiority about sex is proving deadly spoke about a recent report released that shows that promiscuity does not seem to be a driving force of the African epidemic. Europeans appear to be "sleeping around" alot more than people in Africa & Asia. Makes ya think!

- The UNAIDS website holds up-to-date global epidemic figures, stats, information & themes. UNAIDS released the epidemic figures for 2006 last week, so go and read about them here.

- While Avert is a great website to find out about the AIDS history, facts, issues, treatment etc.

-Our governments AIDS website, KHOMANANI - AIDS INFO, holds information on the disease, where to get tested, where to find treatment and more. I am hoping to see their new AIDS strategy on this site or on the official Department of Health site very soon, as it is being launched today in Mmpumalanga.

I could carry on, but I'll wait to hear from you & what you'd like to know about HIV and AIDS...


Daedalus said...

and... you *blushed* about our *arch* comments on Ostendo ... hehehe...
(PS: I did read whole the post)

# 302 said...

Today I tip my cap to you!

- For being dogged and honest as you continue to disseminate the message;
- But more importantly because you actively care.

So keep on keepin' on, spreading your personal revolution.

Bon weekend.

Champagne Heathen said...

Daeds - I blush too easily! Cause I am just so innocent!! And I blushed for the women you guys were referring to!!

I even blushed at #302's sweet comment!

#302 - Thank you so much! Let's hope others are listening & joining me! And have a great weekend too!

Daedalus said...

Not referring to any women in particular, it was a mere erm observation in general methinks. ;)

Anonymous said...

Manto could always get a job at Fruit & Veg.

Champagne Heathen said...

Daeds - it takes at least one person to observe though Daeds! So what have you been observing as of late then!

Harry - she could alwasy swop to Minister of Agriculture!

Daedalus said...

I have not been observing much lately, I am living the life of a singleton. :|

Champagne Heathen said...

One can be single and definitely still be in the habit of observing!