How revealing your HIV status to someone you trust can help

People who test HIV positive should reveal their status to those they trust so they can receive the support they need.

People who test HIV positive should reveal their status to those they trust so they can receive the support they need.

That was the message delivered by Dr Sarah Alinga, manager of The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO) center in Masindi, Uganda, during its ninth annual general meeting on 6 September.

“The people around you need to know about your health,” Alinga said. “We know there’s stigma, but you can disclose to those you trust so that they can support you.

“There are spouses who don’t even tell their partners, which is very bad. You need to support each other. Sharing your HIV status with the people you trust – such as family members, friends and children – can help you with the stresses of having HIV and can improve your overall health.”

Need for behavioural change to curb the spread of HIV

Julian Nyombi the TASO director of training, called for behavioural change among the community to help curb the virus.

“Clients and people who are positive, you can make a difference. If you know you are positive, don’t spread it to others. Let’s look forward to ending this problem.”

Uganda’s HIV prevalence currently stands at 7%, which Nyombi says can be reduced if people adhere to the messages given. She urged people to stop stigmatizing those who are positive but support them instead.

“The fight needs to be scaled up, and it starts with you. Say no to HIV, get tested and help those who are infected. Always take the HIV messages seriously,” Nyombi said.

Parents should teach their children about HIV

Dr John Turyagaruka, the district health officer in Masindi, challenged parents to be more open with their children about HIV issues.

“We might be preventing mother-to–child transmission, but if we don’t teach our children how to avoid contracting HIV we may not do much because they will get infected after birth,” Turyagaruka said.

He encouraged those who have tested positive to accept it and live responsibly.

“Many people – after testing and knowing they have the disease – they try to deny it and live life recklessly. I call upon you to take medication. Life is 100 per cent your responsibility. Save it,” Turyagaruka said.

Government official calls for church involvement

Guest of honour Stephen Mukitale, member of Parliament representing the Bulisa district, applauded president Museveni for his courage against the epidemic over the years.

“If the president had not taken centre stage in the first place, we would be badly off. He set the tune but we have let him down,” Mukitale said.

“If churches and mosques all had HIV messages in all their assemblies, there would be a difference. The media also has a big role. Government cannot work alone.

“We need to emphasize the ABC strategy,” Mukitale said, referring to an approach that was developed in response to the growing HIV epidemic HIV in Africa in the 1990s. Emphasizing abstinence, being faithful and using a condom, it was also used to prevent the spread of other sexually transmitted diseases.

The approach was much more effective between 1990 and 2001, when it helped lower the prevalence rate from 15% to 5% in Uganda. But since then, it has not been emphasized as much, leading to a rise in the prevalence.

Emphasis on prevention

TASO Uganda, which is celebrating 25 years of service, emphasizes preventive measures.

At least 5,000 people have been circumcised this year, and 176,910 male and 14,401 female condoms have been distributed in Masindi alone.

However, there’s still a problem with people not taking medication consistently, which is very dangerous. The majority are clients who move to Juba.

TASO Masindi has at least 500 clients and is currently housed in Masindi hospital but looks forward to constructing its own building.

COMMENTS

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    This is a great piece Araali. Most people Living with HIV have confided in me that sharing their status is part of the reason they are living today. Voluntary self disclosure is an important area that can be exploited for HIV/AIDS advocacy.