AIDS, my generation and the HIV-free generation

 

Chuma Gondwe is a Student Ambassador for Chasing Zero at Cardiff Uni. He shares his thoughts on his generation’s stake in the fight against AIDS.

Where we are born should not affect the chances and opportunities that we have, but sadly we live in a world where the location of your birth decides whether your mother survives childbirth, whether you make it through infancy and whether you live past 35.

I believe that everyone, everywhere is born with so much potential and they should get a fair chance to fulfill it. However, it seems that HIV doesn’t agree with this view: in the UK, only a few babies are born with HIV each year, but in sub-Saharan Africa, 520 babies per day are born HIV positive. Statistics have the ability to dehumanise but if we look again, that means 520 people per day are instantly disadvantaged at birth, with their chances of exploiting their potential hindered just by being born in a different place.

I believe that everyone, everywhere is born with so much potential and they should get a fair chance to fulfill it

I came across Chasing Zero a couple of years ago at a summer event and I really connected with the vision they had – a vision of a generation with the potential to flourish HIV-free; a vision of hope that believes every individual living with AIDS should have the possibility to experience life in the fullest sense. I was instantly sold and wanted to do as much as I could do to help, so I became a Student Ambassador.

Student Ambassadors 2016Being a Student Ambassador has been a pleasure! It can be challenging at times but just knowing that you’ve helped make a difference makes it incredibly worthwhile. I’ve had the chance to run fundraiser events like pub quizzes and raise HIV awareness at my university. So many people have supported the cause and we’ve managed to become a society at Cardiff University which is pretty exciting! The partnership with MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation has been great, as we got to visit MTV London and had the opportunity to learn more about HIV/AIDS from leading experts in the field.

As an Ambassador, I went to an event that was part of the STOP AIDS Missing Meds Campaign, focused on the lack of research into ARV drugs. During this event some people living with HIV shared their stories; I’d never realised that ARVs alone are not the sole solution – for some people, ARVs can have side effects and lead to depression. This can be averted by using an alternative ARV treatment, but that option isn’t always available in places like rural Malawi – yet.

My generation needs to take on the challenge

My generation really needs to be engaged with the fight against HIV/AIDS – it matters so much. Our culture is very much built on ‘trend’ and this is always changing, so even when it comes to injustices there always seems to be a trendy one to fight. We base a lot of our thinking on what we hear through the media, so we get the attitude that “if we haven’t heard about x in a while then x doesn’t really matter or exist any more.” I’m a lover of social justice and I don’t want to deny the importance of other causes… but the common perceptions that “fighting AIDS was only a trend in the 90s” and that “HIV/AIDS isn’t a problem any more” are completely wrong. AIDS is still the leading cause of death among young women worldwide, and an estimated 36 million people are living with HIV today.

The common perceptions that “fighting AIDS was only a trend in the 90s” and that “HIV/AIDS isn’t a problem any more” are completely wrong

My generation in the UK has so much talent, is educated and we’ve had a fair chance to exploit our potential – it’s time we used our position to help others experience life in the fullest sense. There’s research to be done into HIV treatment, especially for children. There’s policies that need to be changed in order to increase drug production and distribute them fairly. It’s amazing to see all the progress that has been made internationally – the number of children being born with HIV has decreased by 58% worldwide since 2000 – but we need an extra push right now to meet that goal of ending AIDS by 2030, and it’s my generation that needs to take on the challenge over the next 15 years.

There’s lots to be done, but AIDS can be defeated in our lifetime – my generation needs to be aware of that and become fully engaged in the fight.

Blog by Chuma Gondwe (19) , Chasing Zero Student Ambassador at Cardiff University, studying Human Geography

We’re looking for a few more Student Ambassadors for next term, starting in September 2016. Interested in inspiring your generation? Apply here.

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