I think that empowerment— the positive kind that has the force to change circumstance from something within the individual— is central to responsibility. If we take responsibility for our lives, then we must somehow be empowered to do so. But if we assume that our responsibility for our health ends with stepping into the health provider’s office, are we actually empowered? Or are we actually abdicating responsibility through abdicating power to the provider? Yes, you know what is best for me. But isn’t it more complex than this? Shouldn’t our response be deeper, more challenging? These are, after all, my needs— my health— that is being addressed. And so what does my health require? My physical health. Yes medication, but also a proper diet and exercise. My mental health. Perhaps counselling, relaxation. My social health. Organisations and networks that come alongside and support the individual and their family, activism that pushes for a society free of stigma and wrong presuppositions, of unjust criminalisation. The list continues on.
This is obviously a hard topic, because there has to be a balance. Yes, we are empowered and need to step into this empowerment through acting responsibly. But we are also human beings that have fundamental rights, and we don’t want to set up an impossible scenario where the individual is constantly fighting. The point is that we want people with HIV to get well. And this requires a balance between rights and responsibility. And this balance presupposes that responsibility must inherently come alongside rights.