Know your HIV status; debunking old myths and misconceptions
Why should I even bother to know my status and I will die anyway? Shouldn’t I just wait and die without knowing?
This would have been true decades ago, when knowing your status equaled a death sentence. However, with the advancement of HIV treatments especially with Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), a person living with HIV can even outlive a person with Type 2 diabetes. It is a manageable chronic condition where a person who knows their status today and start on ARV treatment, their life expectancy is likely to be between 20- 25 years. Typically, if you find out you are HIV positive as a teenager today, you are likely to live up to your child’s wedding day!
People will know that I am dying and will stigmatize me.
When on ARV treatment, you are not likely to lose large amounts of weight and hence seem apparent that something is wrong. However, you will look bright and healthy just like every other person.
How will I break the news to my partner, friends and family?
It is a known fact that one can contract HIV through several ways. For example; a faithful partner could contract it through an unfaithful partner, a mother could pass it to their unborn child, and one could even contract it in the line of work.
The longer you take to know your status, the less effective the treatments will be because you will have advanced in the HIV stages.
World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day has been held on 1st December every year since 1988 with the express aim of raising awareness about the AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) pandemic which is caused through HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection.
The theme on the 30th anniversary of this day encourages all and sundry to be aware of their HIV status.
World Health Organization estimates indicate that 75% of people living with HIV are aware of their status. The remaining 25% is representative of over 9 million people who require access to HIV testing.
Governments and healthcare professionals still face challenges when it comes to HIV testing, most notably resistance from patients who fear being discrimination and stigmatization. We still have large numbers globally who are hesitant to undergo HIV screening, but it is important to ensure that people who are infected with HIV but unaware of their status get tested and linked to care and prevention services.
The Tanzanian Perspective
Bring the conversation closer home to where nearly two decades ago the Tanzanian Government decided to be proactive in its approach to dealing with the HIV/AIDS pandemic as it threatened to spiral out of control. The Government worked in partnership with civil society and international agencies to combat the pandemic through a series of programs whose core theme was centered around raising awareness and using that awareness to educate the masses on prevention and management of the disease.
Gains have been made over the years – in a nutshell – increased awareness, better preventative, care giving and management services, lower infection rates, improved attitudes towards persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and lower incidences of stigma within society.
These gains run the risk of being eroded as recent numbers point to an upsurge in the number of new infections with the 15-24-year age bracket accounting for 40% of new infections, according to statistics released by The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in July 2018.
A key pointer to this statistic stems from the fact that many who are in this age bracket are not going for testing and are resultantly unaware of their HIV status while engaging in risky behavior which increases their chances of infection. This ignorance has often been brought about by an omission of this age bracket when it comes to matters HIV awareness. It is inevitable that this group be included in conversations and initiatives around HIV as they are without a doubt the most vulnerable age group.
The remaining 60% of new infections have been recorded in the 25-60 age bracket, a group that is in most instances aware of HIV/AIDS and the various initiatives around it. It is important to urge this group to engage in regular testing and make informed decisions based on their status.
So, why is it important to know your HIV status?
Well, testing yourself for HIV is important for your health, your relationships, your life and your future. HIV can be prevented, and you can reduce or completely erase your chances of infection.
A yearly test is recommended if you engage yourself in activity that puts you at risk of infection. If you have been exposed to situations that could result in infection, it is recommended that you test within three months of exposure.
Should it be detected early, there are better outcomes should treatment commence early. The current advancements in HIV treatment have seen many people go on to live long, normal and productive lives after early diagnosis and care.
On this 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, it is important to know your HIV status.
Get yourself a self-test kit today from www.mydawa.com and know your status today to protect yourself, loved ones and start treatment so you can live a healthier and happier life.