No tragedy for HIV educators

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Gabriel Noda is a 21 years old and fourth year medical student in Anhembi Morumbi University, in São Paulo, Brazil. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Like Romeo and Juliet, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and ending HIV are inseparable topics: wherever one goes, the other will follow. To eradicate any disease we must think about how to prevent and how to handle it. If we are trying to end HIV infection, we must talk about SRHR topics. And why is that?

HIV is a virus of which the infection leads to more symptoms than only clinical conditions. Like COVID-19, HIV had an epidemic spread through the media to all the world in the past, but the consequences still remain in the current days. This evolves into unfamiliarity by society about how to prevent it, stigma around people living with HIV, mistreatment by health professionals and many other issues. In this scenario, ending HIV will keep being an utopy if we don’t change this world. But how will we do it?

As the educator and philosopher Paulo Freire states: “Education doesn’t transform the world. Education changes people. People change the world”. Advocating about comprehensive sexuality education is a first step for the goal. In a joint action towards the spread of knowledge for patients, they can learn how to prevent the infection of HIV and share it with their peers and communities. Not only that, education can change society’s misconception about HIV, looking for eliminating stigmas and improving the mental health of people living with HIV. And no less important, it is with education for both students and health professionals that the health services will understand the importance of this topic and understand how to apply qualified hearing, so every patient feels embraced and joins its treatment. The following steps for the change include: advocating in favor of improving medical curriculum to approach this topic, beyond biological features of HIV; promoting new leaders on SRHR, so they can spread the knowledge to more people and change cultural bias; continuously hand over the progress to the next generations (of students, professionals and communities); and keep on this ant work.

Although some of these topics are already very well discussed in world organizations (like UNAIDS, UNFPA and WHO) and medical students organizations programs, it is a long term mission ending HIV, and the main tool for it will always be SRHR. In other words, we can’t achieve one without working on the other. But differently from Shakespeare’s story, this won’t end in a tragedy. It may be too much optimism and utopy, but education will change people. And we will change the world.

About the author

Gabriel Noda is a 21 years old and fourth year medical student in Anhembi Morumbi University, in São Paulo, Brazil. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) and local officer of International Federation of Medical Students Associations of Brazil (IFMSA Brazil).

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