This week here on campus we are having our own screenings, for HIV/AIDs. The theme for the event is “I took the first step… I know my HIV status.” All week long students can visit one of the five locations on campus and get tested. Here is one of the mobile testing locations:
And here students are waiting to be tested:
Since nearly 1/4 of the population (1 in 3 adults) here has HIV/AIDs you frequently hear reference to this illness. The “know your status” saying is a common topic of conversation and widely promoted. Yesterday I was teaching a research methods class full of physical education students. While discussing different types of questions to ask on a survey a student raised his hand and suggested asking participants about their HIV/AIDs status. Before coming here that was something which would have never occurred to me.
While the HIV/AIDs testing is not a personal concern to me, I am involved in my own health issues here. Today marks the beginning of 17 days of malaria medication for me. Friday morning I leave Botswana to attend the United Nations World Tourism Organization General Assembly which is being co-hosted by Livingstone City, Zambia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Due to the prevalence of malaria in both these destinations I am taking medication as a precaution. According to the World Health Organization there were 219 million malaria cases and 660,000 malaria deaths in 2010, most of which are in Africa. However, malaria mortality has dropped almost 25% in the last decade due to awareness, treatment and prevention.
Having both of these health concerns at the forefront of my mind this week certainly puts things into perspective. Back home neither of these illnesses would typically cross my mind. But here they are quite normal, not much different from having a cold or the flu. I remember when I was in Sierra Leone one of my friends there contracted malaria. He and his family took a very nonchalant attitude when telling me about it, “It’s no big deal. We all get it once or twice a year. He will be ok in a few days.” This is just another one of those almost daily reminders of why I am so appreciative for what I have.