When we were faced with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, at first we were not so worried because we referred to it as the disease for those in the West where homosexuality was condoned, and later on we thought it was a disease which affected those who were not faithful. As our knowledge base increased, with heightened lobby and advocacy activities which raised our awareness, we realized one way or the other we were affected, hence there was need for a multi-stakeholder approach in the fight against HIV/ AIDS.
Consequently as communities we have realized the virus can be managed in the event one gets infected. Through awareness campaigns, communities have abandoned stigmatizing and discriminatory practices in the process promoting positive living powered by adherence to the Antiretroviral therapy, along with practicing safer sex. We have recorded high levels of success in mitigating on HIV/ AIDS, albeit some challenges in the way. Our challenges have emanated from the way we react to factual issues against a background of our cultural and social influences. Some believe that they can be cured of a viral disease when they sleep with a minor, or with a person living with a disability. Likewise, a sizeable number have arguably been convicted for rape in such circumstances, paying for their ill- gotten thoughts in the process.
We have a tendency to be conservative in our reactions to situations which crop up in our communities. Our culture has always defined how we interact and help fellow members of our society in times of need. It is through such sheer community closeness that as a community we may fail to observe the social distance being called for in the fight against Corona Virus also known as Covid- 19. We have been slow in accepting that the Corona virus can attack and wipe us as a community. We have been influenced by unsubstantiated claims that the virus does not affect humans of black origin. Such denial has been reinforced in the social media, while we have been exposed to global figures of confirmed cases and figures of people who have succumbed to the virus across the globe. Whether the less figures confirmed in less developed countries are true, or as some would have it, due to the lack of testing equipment, it remains to be seen how this devastating virus will spare our communities.
We are still found on the streets one way or the other. Most of us are 100 percent informal traders and a day at home means a day without any income. A day away from work for a kombi (taxi) loader means he misses out on a day’s share of the cash collected from the drivers. In the very same way we may be forced to be on the streets to queue for mealie meal which apparently we cannot stock up in large quantities because of availability challenges and high cost where it is available. The cost of basic commodities on the market has almost made it impossible to stock food and observe the quarantine which will save communities from the Covid- 19 scare.
It will be difficult to be off the streets but the scary effects we have seen from China, Italy, to name but two, will certainly force us to re-think our philosophy as African communities. We do not have physical barriers separating us from our neighbours, for most of us who stay in the high density areas. We remain duty bound to greet each other using the traditional handshake, offer solace to mourning families in our midst, and as well the African woman would need that daily up close gossip chat with the woman next door. Are were ready for a total lockdown then?
It is time to be selfish and ignore the social labels that are ascribed to those whom societies feel are being “more English than the Queen.” It is a time we should communicate more on the social media platforms with our folks next door and take heed that we should not give the corona virus room to spread through our movements. It is the time to focus on the problem at hand and make do with the little that we have in order for us to save our communities, our people from the Covid- 19 virus, difficult though as it may sound. Our eyes cannot detect who has the virus, or who does not. As well we cannot tell where one can get the virus and from whom. Therefore it is a time we have to treat the next person as a potential suspect. It is a time to be selfish, stay at home and hope during the quarantine we remain safe and as the famous Christian saying would sum up, mwari ari mubatsiri wedu. (God always being our protector).