HIV & AIDS TALK WITH BEATRICE TONHODZAYI
13 July 2017
Lets talk comprehensive wellness
We need to be truly worried. Lifestyle conditions have become a cause for concern indeed. Just this past week as Zimpapers we lost a young woman from one of our newspaper products died. At only 27, she took a final bow and walked off the stage of life. The late Arts Reporter left behind a young baby and a devastated young husband. There are too many such stories lately. Just a few weeks ago, another young journalist lost her life. She also was an Arts Journalist who took a final bow at age 28 as a result of Cancer. I don’t know about you but to me such young lives should not be lost. At such an age; one would be full of plans.
They would be filled with anticipation of the many strides that they would want to take. It therefore is heartbreaking when such a young life is lost. These are the productive age-groups as well who are expected to be productive and to provide for their families. The two examples I have cited above are certainly not the only ones. All around us lately; we are seeing and hearing too many cases of death, illness and tragedy. Half the time these conditions are diagnosed very late. Half the time; it seems like the conditions they are affected by are green fields. Some people are just dying suddenly. They are just collapsing and it is only after they die that families start going after post mortem results to understand what would have caused the death.
Only then; is it coming out that in most of these instances; a lifestyle condition would be to blame. Lifestyle conditions; also known as non-communicable diseases have become today’s biggest nightmare. Diabetes, cancer, kidney and liver ailments are sprouting all over the place. High blood pressure and weight gain are also problems and some people are literally just collapsing because of the huge fat accumulations they pick up as they go through life. At times one just collapses only for doctors to pick clots and other things in their system. We are literally walking around with so many health complications. While in some cases; there is not much that can be done about these; in some instances; eating well, exercising and just practicing a healthy lifestyle can helps things. A functional health system also comes in to play here.
If people had the opportunity to access health care services as and when they need them; surely some of these problems could be prevented. Right now; we have most people with Cancer getting diagnosed quite late in the progression of the disease. Some die without even knowing what is wrong with them. Some kidney or liver complications only come to the fore when one has already collapsed and chances of recovery are very slim.
This is where we as citizens and our health system need to work together for a healthy Zimbabwe. I wrote the other week about the need for Zimbabweans to be a people that go in for regular health checks. Things like pap smears, breast cancer screening, liver function tests, regular HIV testing, among others should be a way of life for once one adopts a way of life where they are always in the know about what is going on with their health and their body- complications and death can be avoided.
But people could only be in the know if the health care system supports this way of life. Currently; the health delivery system does not inspire a lot of confidence. I know people who shudder at the thought of going to a public hospital or taking a loved one there. They literally cringe at the thought. Can you blame them? This is because of the way things are in these institutions. At times medicines themselves are not available. At times one is asked to pay for every little thing that is used in managing their health. Let us just talk of blood for a bit. For someone who requires extra blood; just the price is enough to give them a pause. What this means therefore is that only those with the money can get the blood. The same applies for renal patients. Dialysis does not come cheap. It comes at a cost. How many people die just because they cannot get dialysis sessions. Anyone with a chronic condition will attest to the challenges that they come across as they go through life taking medicine for the condition they live with.
The few people that are on medical aid and who can access private healthcare facilities have it slightly better. But with the challenges bedeviling the medical aid system which has seen some people being asked to pay shortfalls that amount to thousands; the struggle is still very much real. Conditions like cancer are so prohibitive to manage. This is why we always see people asking for donations whenever a loved one is affected by this kind of condition. Some have been blessed and managed to go outside Zimbabwe for treatment while many more are just dying.
How much longer are we going to stand by while people are obviously dying from some conditions that could be dealt with following increased understanding by society? We need to start educating and enlightening each other regarding these conditions. They are here to stay and if some of them are linked to our lifestyles such as diet, alcohol consumption, weight and fitness levels; then we also have to be seen to be re-looking our lifestyles and living healthy.
It s high time Zimbabwe starts talking loudly about lifestyle/non-communicable conditions. The same movement and noise that the country made when HIV came to the fore is needed now lest we continue to lose lives while we watch. We owe it to those who have passed and those of us who remain to talk about comprehensive wellness.