The grossly gruesome and unnatural picture of an HIV-positive man who had grown breasts scared the infected devil out of me and other concerned people living with HIV who are on antiretroviral therapy.

The issue, to be precise, is not whether or not that particular person had developed side effects. The bone of contention is that education, or lack thereof, with regard to the effective and safe use of antiretroviral drugs, is non-existent.

All that is preached, almost religiously, is that this form of treatment is irreversible and also that people living with HIV must undertake it. It is almost as if we don't have much of a choice.

The greatest challenge, as I have maintained through all these years when I was not on ARVs myself, is that the pharmaceutical companies have scandalously failed to provide a comprehensive educational drive for all our people.

Even in this day and age, the silent, yet increasing number of people, including this gentleman whose torso looks like that of a woman, painfully and consistently deal with the side effects of these drugs and are left to fend for themselves.

It is an open secret that public medical facilities, which include provision of counselling services, are inadequate to deal with the present crisis that millions of people living with HIV face throughout the country.

It is more severe in outlying, rural areas, where access to treatment and the general literacy standards are unacceptably low.

Historically, the pharmaceutical community has managed, through a number of calculated strategies, to silence and distract attention from their own responsibilities, by simply emphasising that they spent billions on research-related matters and the actual development of these medicines and, therefore, could not be expected to do more.

Then the focus changed towards the controversy-ridden Department of Health, which later became a scapegoat for any other neglectful misbehaviour of other role players.