A disease is an illness that affects the body (a single area or the whole system) and/or mind within a single organism (World Health Organization). Basically when a person is in a diseased state, they are no longer classified by modern and traditional medical diagnosis as “healthy”. Some examples of common diseases worldwide are: Influenza A virus, Asthma, HIV/AIDS, HPV, Malaria, and Sickle Cell Anemia. In addition, diseases are generally classified into three categories, which include: Genetic, infectious, and non-infectious.
As is the case with most marginalized groups, people living with a disease(s) are often discriminated against on the basis of their illness. Some researchers have linked negative cultural perceptions of diseased individuals to the common occurrence of discrimination among the ill. The validity of the previous claim remains to be confirmed, however research has shown that cultural differences between the treatment of the ill within traditional and modern societies do exist.
One way to reduce stigma and discrimination of the ill is through education and improvement of community health services and networks. Yet stigma and discrimination of the ill has existed throughout human history in almost all societies and civilizations around the globe, so eradicating its practice is no easy task.
When some of us think of disease we immediately associate it with death and rarely associate disease with life. Although this may appear to be just a matter of commonsense, having a disease does not automatically mean a death sentence. In fact many people who have suffered from a debilitating illness have accredited their disease to teaching them the true meaning of survival. Disease-related advocacy campaigns around the world have focused on survival as their central theme and message because survival signifies hope not just for a future cure but also for life itself. In the end, whether we are diseased or healthy we are all fighting to survive.
In 2006 the World Heart Federation (WHF) leaped from the dreams of a handful of global youth leaders and partners into a fruitful reality as one of the leading disease advocacy organizations in the world specializing in youth advocacy. With chapters in several nations around the world, WHF has taken their advocacy projects from national to local levels of change. Some of their project areas include: Tobacco control, developing advocacy skills, and poor diets and physical inactivity.
Of course beyond the efforts of global civil society agents, youth have also been impacted negatively by disease as in the case of millions of orphans as a result of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, the hundreds of thousands of children who die each year from Malaria and other preventable diseases, and the growing number of acquired diseases among youth in heavily polluted developed nations. As young people we may not be immune to disease, but we can work to prevent discrimination of the ill and celebrate their survival.