ONGWEDIVA - Israel Hatutale, who has been living with the HIV virus for the past 21 years, says the fight against the deadly epidemic can only be a success with the involvement of men.
This according to Hatutale entails that men just like all infected people should not be stigmatised or be discriminated against.
At the same time, he encouraged the nation to fight the virus and not individuals.
“If we leave the men behind in the fight against HIV/Aids, the spread of HIV will not stop,” said Hatutale.
Hatutale first tested HIV positive in 1998, but only went back to his first follow up six years later in 2004 because of the first harsh treatment he encountered when he collected his positive results from the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital.
Hatutale narrated that the health worker was very harsh and questioned why he got infected at such a tender age.
“The health worker said I was stupid, asked how I could get infected so young and then she harshly said I should go to ward 7 and see how other men were dirtying their pants,” said Hatutale.
And because of that, he said he chose to stay away because he was still just 23 and still uninformed about the virus.
Hatutale was speaking at an HIV/Aids awareness day at Medipark Private Hospital on Friday morning.
During the six years of absence from the hospital, Hatutale said he remained sexually active and might have infected people unknowingly in the process as he could not disclose his status.
Upon declaring his status, he faced discrimination not only from the society but also from his family members.
He said his wife who tested negative at the time also left him, but has since re-married and is living happily.
At that time, being diagnosed with HIV/Aids was still considered a taboo. Hatutale said discriminating against people living with HIV/Aids can force someone to hide their status and subsequently engage in reckless behaviour.
Equally so, the discrimination has also led to fewer men disclosing their status and partaking in HIV/Aids related activities.
He called on the nation to do away with name calling and disregarding people living with HIV/Aids.
Hatutale is a member of the welfare association Tonata, which today has a membership of 18 000 people living with the HIV virus as well as 600 support groups.