Personal Experience of Illness Can Help Others

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There are many methods used to educate young adults and bring awareness to social crises. Some methods teach the reality of social crises and living with diseases such as AIDS. Others avoid such direct contact and aim to educate around problems as if they weren’t there. In order to fully grasp the effects of a social crises, direct education is needed. Direct education gives facts, and often the negative effects of social crises like AIDS, which is very beneficial to teaching. Implementing more direct education would likely create a more informed society.

Avoiding the discussion of HIV has not been working for one program in South Africa called Lovelife. “We talk about positive things, like making informed choices, sharing responsibility, and positive e sexuality” (Epstein 114.) Lovelife wanted to catch children’s attention with positive outlooks instead of focusing on more serious discussions like disease. The children at the Lovelife center openly discussed sexual activity however, avoided talking about HIV directly. The Lovelife centers were more similar to after school daycares for children then to HIV prevention programs.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic that has centered itself in most African countries, has forced governments and the population to act. AIDS/HIV prevention programs such as Lovelife in South Africa have become popular, these programs which focus less on AIDS itself and more on promoting a healthy and happy lifestyle are an example of indirect education. Because Lovelife did not teach the effects of living with AIDS and the hardships it brings to the young, members have not been able to realize the severity of the disease. “I was afraid the people there would find out my sister had HIV. We talked about it as if it was someone else’s problem” (Epstein 115.) The poor perception surrounding HIV caused children to avoid it as much as possible. Without the direct education needed to provide clarity for young South African’s they fail to properly protect themselves against the disease because they don’t know what they are protecting against. “A more realistic HIV prevention program would have paid less attention to aspirations and dreams unattainable for so many young people, and greater attention to the real circumstances in people’s lives that make it hard for them to avoid infection” (Epstein 119.) Epstein clearly favors direct teaching, because the children know of AIDS, but do not correlate it as problem of theirs, which it is.

Not all African countries had a rising HIV rate. “In 2003, the only African country that had seen a nationwide decline in HIV prevalence was Uganda. Since 1992 the HIV rate had fallen by some two-thirds” (Epstein 116.) Being the only country with a decreasing HIV rate while all neighboring countries struggle to do the same is a massive accomplishment. Uganda’s success does not come from social program, instead Ugandan people tend to be very close and more likely to discuss the life-threatening effects of diseases like HIV. The Ugandan people are more likely to open up to each other than other African countries. Because Ugandans were more willing to talk about difficult subjects they often had personal connections to people with HIV and saw the effect first hand. Being involved personally with a social crisis is what is causing lower HIV rates in Uganda. The personal connection creates a sense of importance when fighting the disease because, individuals are more likely to care if someone they know is affected.

The treatment of people with AIDS/HIV in South Africa differs drastically to how the Ugandan people treat people living with such conditions. “I have a friend at school who disclosed she has HIV, and the others won’t even walk with her” (Epstein 115.) South Africa society isolates those with diseases. This is not being corrected by Lovelife’s indirect teaching method. Uganda not only treats disease victims with the same level of respect as others, they listen to what the victims have to say and how they can prevent it from happening to others. Uganda should become a role model for many other African countries, who should hope to accomplish the low rates of HIV that Uganda has.

Direct teaching would not only help South African people lower HIV rates, direct education could and should be further implemented in American society. The straightforwardness ensures that everyone fully understands what’s being taught. Social programs in the United States should attempt to model the open discussion that Uganda has established. “It seemed clear to me that more could be learned from Inkanyezi’s attempt to help people deal with the reality of AIDS than from Lovelife’s attempt to create a new consumerist man and woman for South Africa” (Epstein 119.) If the United States society shifted and became more accepting and approachable I think everyone would benefit. Epstein agrees that helping people deal with the struggles that diseases bring, instead of ignoring them and changing the subject would be beneficial.

The best prevention for any type of disease is knowledge and personal connection. Giving understandable knowledge to our youth will be the best way to cure any social crisis. “Was it possible to reduce the spread of HIV without involving HIV-positive people and the activist and community groups that supported them?” (Epstein 111.) In responding to Epstein, I say no, it is not likely that disease can be prevented without people having personal experience. Survivors of diseases like AIDS should not be shamed but instead given a platform to share their experience with the world. The experience that disease survivors have gone through if shared with others could possibly help those with the disease and help people not get the disease.

Epstein was surprised of how different the children of Rwanda handled AIDS, compared to those from South Africa. “All they wanted to know was what they could do to help people with AIDS” (Epstein 119.). This differed from how the children at the Lovelife center handled the disease because when Epstein approached them, they changed the subject quickly to what American celebrities are like. The Rwandan children were similar to those in Uganda, both had much more personal experience with HIV then the Lovelife members. As a result of the increased personal experience at the time Epstein visited Rwanda, they also had a declining HIV rate. Teaching the real experiences that one goes through with difficult diseases is essential to making sure the severity is understood. Discussing subjects that are sometimes hard for some like HIV, should be more encouraged in society.

Without experiencing crises, themselves, it is hard for many to grasp the devastation that can occur. Experience of others should be shared with everyone to help prevent spread and give others going through similar situations a path to follow. A community working in unity can benefit everyone involved. Society needs to become more willing to discuss serious issues and accepting others that are affected by them. Facing problems directly with proper education and protection methods would be the best way to tackle any crisis. Teaching children the reality of serious diseases such as HIV/AIDS will allow them to better prepare to protect themselves in the future against such diseases.

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Personal Experience of Illness Can Help Others. (2022, May 27). Retrieved June 24, 2024 , from

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