South African doctor uses social media to break HIV stigma

World Today

A doctor in South Africa is using social media to help people living with HIV/AIDS. CCTV’s Julie Scheier reported this story from Johannesburg.

Physician Sindi van Zyl uses her blog and social media networks to answer questions about HIV/AIDS which helps alleviate the stigma that many people with HIV and AIDs face, she said.

“I am always on my phone, if I am not on my phone I am on my tablet and that is because that is how people reach me, email, SMS, What’s messages, twitter, Facebook as well. Anonymity is everything, within the HIV sphere I’ve realized that people want to know stuff, they want information, they want help, but the biggest problem is stigma,” she said.

Van Zyl, 38, saw first-hand the impact of HIV/AIDS when she worked as an intern at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, south of Johannesburg.

“I don’t think health is difficult, I don’t think that people should struggle to get information around their health, and if I can offer the service online, across platforms, then that’s what I’m going to be doing,” she said.

The majority of the questions she answers are related to child transmission of HIV, particularly helping HIV positive women have babies that are HIV negative, she said.

“My mantra is that HIV stands for ‘Hope Is Victory’, and I’m just here to give hope. Hope, because we have medication, we have this condition under control. We may not have a cure, but we have it under control,” Van Zyl said.