Pause for thought

Everyday in Scotland, we work to make a positive difference to the lives of people living with HIV.

The people we work with often face desperate and complex challenges and the need for support is as great as ever.

Fortunately, the support we provide is underpinned by the knowledge that, today in Scotland, advancements in treatment mean that people living with HIV can live well with the condition.

Sometimes, however, we hear stories close to home that remind us of how far Scotland has come, and how much progress is still to be made in many parts of the world.

Last week, one of our colleagues lost a family member in Zimbabwe to AIDS. She has asked us to share her story:

“Last week in Harare, my cousin died a needless death.

“I am angry and I am sad.

“He succumbed to AIDS.

“A few months ago he texted me, saying his legs were swollen and that he couldn’t walk. When the photo came through, I knew straight away it was Kaposi Sarcoma, an AIDS defining cancer.

“When he went to the clinic he was told he’d need further tests. When I asked when he was going, his reply was simply ‘no cash’.

“Three months on, he is dead. I could go on about how the health system let him down, how society let him down, how stigma played a role.

“How ironic that he should die on a day when I had just shared an article about the advances in HIV treatment. How ill-fitting that he should die when I have just signed my name to an HIV anti-stigma strategy campaign group.

“The last image of my cousin is a picture sent by my mother of his frail frame on a stretcher being hauled into an ambulance to a resource stretched Hospital. There to face a lonely, slow, cruel death.”