As the festive season unfolds, adorned with the spirit of celebration and good times with family, friends and chosen families, I offer a timely reminder for my queer siblings in South Africa to intertwine joy with responsibility.
In the midst of these holidays, let’s prioritise our health, and remember that 2024 has so many good things for us to come back to, so here’s my top 5 of things to remember during the holidays.
1. HIV/AIDS Prevention
The festive season is often filled with cheerful and sometimes unplanned moments (impulsive shopping, excessive eating and of course some well deserved sex escapades). Let us not forget the importance of safe sex practices for HIV/AIDS prevention. Condoms, open communication, and regular testing are the pillars of safeguarding ourselves and our partners. This festive season, let’s embrace love responsibly and make HIV testing a collective commitment, if you test negative, get initiated on PrEP as soon as possible.
2. Adherence to Treatment: Consistency is Key
For those on HIV treatment, the festive season can be a time of disruptions. In the midst of the celebrations, consistency in medication adherence is paramount. Set reminders, utilise smartphone apps, and ensure that your health remains a priority. Also make use of adherence clubs and groups that are functional during the holidays. This commitment to consistency ensures a positive start to the New Year.
3. Safety is paramount
As we explore and have fun by visiting families, new places and establishments, the importance of choosing safe and welcoming spaces cannot be overstated. Opt for venues that embrace and understand the uniqueness of our community. It doesn’t have to be a queer club, just a mainstream establishment that commits to protecting queer people. It’s in these spaces that acceptance thrives, encouraging an environment where everyone can celebrate authentically.
4. Mental Health Matters
The holiday season can bring a spectrum of emotions. It’s essential to reach out to friends, family, or support networks if you find yourself needing someone to talk to. Practicing self-care becomes a gift to yourself, whether it’s a quiet evening, engaging in activities that bring joy, or seeking professional support if necessary. Let us also not forget that there are many among us that have been cast out of their families, whilst others have to conform to the gender binary in order to visit home for the holidays – love and light to them as well.
5. Money Moves
The festive season just has a way of making us spend; impulsive spending is often the order of the season. Let us spare a thought for Janu-worry. Set a realistic budget to avoid post-holiday stress, prioritise thoughtful gifts over extravagance, and consider savings strategies to ensure financial stability. Mindful spending, opting for community-centric celebrations, and steering clear of unnecessary debt contribute to a financially empowering holiday experience. Let’s use this season as an opportunity to reflect on our financial goals, ensuring a sense of responsibility and planning for a prosperous year ahead. Cheers to January with no worries!
Mpho Buntse is an LGBTIQ+ activist and a 2022 Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans list alumni.