Tween Talk with Eugenia Tachie Menson: Ah-mazing youth … Part 3

Boarding school life : Eugenia Tachie Menson Can you ‘hack’ it?
Eugenia Tachie-Menson

Before the pandemic, COVID-19, dropped on us all like a bomb in a war zone, leaving us still reeling from its aftereffects, there was another ‘pandemic’ from more than two decades ago that gripped the world in the same fearful manner; HIV-AIDS.

Saidy Brown, now 26

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is also a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Unlike COVID-19, there is currently no effective cure. Once people get HIV, they have it for life.  However, with proper medical care HIV can be controlled, and people who live with HIV can live healthy, long lives with effective treatment.  HIV infection in humans came from a type of chimpanzee virus (called simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV) and was probably passed to humans when humans hunted these chimpanzees for meat and came in contact with their infected blood.  Doesn’t this ring a very familiar bell (in relation to the source of the COVID-19 virus?)

People with HIV were stigmatized severely by society to the point of suicide cases.  Even though unlike the COVID-19 virus, HIV is mainly passed through blood and certain other body fluids, people living with HIV were treated like outcasts.  People wouldn’t touch them, speak to them, or sit in the same space with them, for the erroneous fear of contracting the virus. Over the years, with a lot of education and awareness campaigns on how HIV works, it may seem that the stigmatization has subsided or altogether, been annihilated.  Or not?

Only at age 14, South African Saidy Brown found out she was HIV positive. In an interview with the BBC, Saidy said “When I was 14, I went to a youth day event to represent my school. At the event there were people who do HIV tests and counselling. “When we got there, they asked us if we would like to test. I was one of the people who got tested. That’s how I found out.

“I was shocked, I was in denial, I couldn’t believe it. I was only 14 at the time so I was like: ‘How? I’m only 14… I haven’t done anything. How?’

“But when I got home and told my aunt and she was the one who told me that no, I’d actually been born with it. My parents had died from Aids-related diseases, which I had never known.  My mum passed away when I was 10, my dad when I was nine.” 


I remember vividly what I was like as a 14-year-old – I don’t think I could have been this ‘Saidy’ brave.  To have lost both parents by age 10 and then find out at age 14 that you have HIV in a society which made it seem like it was a death sentence…how does a teenager withstand the stigma alone?

Saidy continues in her BBC interview: “When I was younger, I was so scared of how people would perceive me. But now, I’ve grown, and people’s opinions really don’t phase me. I think emotionally I’ve become stronger. When I get these {negative} comments and everything, they don’t really break me.”  She adds, “I have not necessarily been discriminated against. I can say that I was discriminating against my own self, from around 14 until I was 18, because I didn’t want to talk about it. Only my family knew; no-one else. Once I reached 18, I decided to start disclosing. It’s been better and wiser.”

In true millennial fashion, when Saidy Brown decided to go public with her HIV status, she took to social media and tweeted; thousands of people re-shared her hopeful message, with many praising her courage for speaking publicly about her own experience with the virus.

“I like sparking conversations about HIV. I don’t believe in treating it like it’s an unspoken subject. I want us to talk about it, because once we talk about it more, then we can de-stigmatise it. There are people who are naysayers, but I don’t even reply. I just leave them”.  This young woman’s bravery is not only admirable but very exemplary and I have been in awe of her since I cottoned on to her story.

Saidy has been carrying on with her life and admits, whilst she doesn’t do a good job of watching what she eats, she does take her medication religiously.  That will definitely ensure her longevity, barring any other complications.

What are her plans for having her won family some day?  Saidy says has been reading into preventative treatments to avoid the transmission of HIV to her partner or baby.

I’m the daughter of mother-to-child transmission so I wouldn’t want to put my kids through it,” she concludes.

*parts of interview from BBC Minute

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