The fear of testing for HIV still exists: Part II

Following efforts to convince my friend to have an HIV test she committed to taking one. Fortunately she was found to be HIV negative. To her, testing was “a difficult and harrowing experience” but she says she is glad to have gone through it.

Following efforts to convince my friend to have an HIV test (which I recently blogged about) she committed herself to taking one. Fortunately she was found to be HIV negative. To her, testing was “a difficult and harrowing experience” but she says she is glad to have gone through it.

Her initial fear of testing indicated she was not sure of her health status or her husband’s and could not determine the direction of her life. Speaking to her afterwards she wondered how she could have lived in complete darkness about her life when she had so much to accomplish.

Her first observation after testing was: “I think it is now time to direct my life and live a very responsible lifestyle. This will guide me into planning ahead for my children and myself.”

This statement shows the strong impact testing for HIV can have, even if a person tests negative as my friend has done. This impact can be a good thing. My friend confided that she was now going to ask her husband to accompany her for a test. But she said she would never tell him she had already taken an HIV test. If they can test as a couple it is possible that some degree of the animosity that exists between them due to his possible infidelity could be reduced. But this may be a risky option for her as her husband may totally reject her proposal to test or go alone and keep quiet with his test results. In these circumstances, more mistrust may grow amongst them on top of what already exists. Either way, my friend insists life is never going to be the same.

The effort my friend made to test and the resolutions she has made after testing are good news for the fight against new infections from HIV. But although she envisages a safer sexual lifestyle this is not the reaction of all who test. In 2010, research led by C.W Kabiru investigating the correlates of HIV testing and sexual behaviour among young people in Kisumu, Kenya found having a recent HIV test to be associated with a decreased likelihood of unprotected sex among ‘ever-pregnant’ females but an increased likelihood of unprotected sex and risky sexual partnerships among ‘never-pregnant’ females. Among males, they found an
increased likelihood of concurrency. Repeated HIV testing was associated with a lower likelihood of concurrency among males, and involvement in risky sexual partnerships among males and never-pregnant females.

UNAIDS drive to strive for zero new HIV infections by 2015 will surely benefit from massive HIV testing for a wide spectrum of populations. But equally important for my friend and those in the global HIV response is the encouragement of remaining negative after testing through repeat tests and engaging in behaviour such as condom use that reduces one’s risk of becoming infected in the first place.

 

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