Saturday, January 15, 2011
Caring for CHCT, a creative approach to reduce HIV infections in rural areas
Promoting couples HIV counseling and testing in rural Tanzania community where the sensitization on the awareness of the risk infections is still very low, is a major focal point to reduce the spread of AIDS disease in the country. Statistics shows that, only few people in the rural areas are enlightened about the scourge despite of the fact that, media sensitization programs has been released through various mass media. Probably lack of access to mass media and other information tools is the main contributing factor. Two months ago, Mrs Esther Okoth (33), a mother of five children came to visit a newly established rural health centre known as Obwere health centre which is located in a newly established Rorya district in Mara region to receive voluntary HIV counseling and testing (VCT). She was back at the health centre and was ready to be tested for a second time. “It is very important to know your status and it’s no good waiting until you get sick” says a counselor at the centre. “Ok, so you have decided this time to get an HIV test again” she narrated to her while trying to explain the importance of regular testing for HIV. However, Mrs Esther Okoth learned the importance of testing through a radio announcement which is aired regularly in lake zone regions, thus encourages its listeners to go for health for VCT. Although Mrs. Okoth takes pride in knowing her status and encourages others in her village to do so, her husband refuses to go for testing. This motivated her to continue returning to confirm her negative status. If she would have visited the centre a year ago, she might not have received the HIV testing and counseling services wanted. Now with the additional support of three counselors, the centre has significantly increased the number of patients receiving VCT. Approximately between 15 and 30 patients are tested per day, which is about three times more than before. The majority of patients say that they learned about the services through radio announcements that insists on the importance of regular medical check up. True, getting tested can be one of the most empowering things you can do for your health, one counselor insisted. So keeping that in mind, choosing an informed structured process that can give one all the information to engage in a useful test experience is more important. Many professionally trained Public Health Officers at HIV testing sites use a client centered counseling approach that helps to make the test and the decision of whether to take one or not, is a well thought out plan for each individual. This may include walking through the client’s perception and understanding of HIV/AIDS, discovering personal concepts of risk for infection, exploring ways to reduce that risk, and executing a plan to implement risk or harm reduction in the most realistic way possible. One may ask, what is HIV testing? as with many medical diagnostic tools, the test looks for the presence of antibodies to the HIV virus, not the virus itself. It takes the human body a time period of up to 6 months from the first point of infection to produce antibodies to HIV. The Human Immune-deficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system that protects the body from external germs that cause infections and makes someone feel sick all the time. Once HIV is in someone’s system over the time, it lowers the number of healthy immune cells known as CD4 cells that someone has to fight the germs that cause infections. When the number of healthy cells drops below a certain amount, one gets certain infections called opportunistic infections. This is known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or in short as AIDS. For some people it takes a long time for AIDS to develop for others it takes less time.