Saturday, January 15, 2011

Undertaking couples safety against HIV/AIDS disease

ALTHOUGH couples HIV testing and counseling has practically been brought to the door step of the citizens, various research works have proved that many Tanzanian couples still prefer to live in denial. This is by refusing to yield themselves to be tested in order to know their status, thereby giving rise to the scourge and making it difficult for government to combat or reduce the scourge. A medical expert said that it is rather unfortunate that despite sensitization and awareness by government, stakeholders and NGOs on the need for every Tanzanian to be health conscious especially in knowing their HIV status, there are still millions of people who don’t really know what Voluntary Counseling and Testing is all about. HIV testing and counseling is the process by which an individual through free will submit for testing and counseling for prevention, treatment and support for those who are positive while those who are negative are also enlightened on how to stay safe. He says that research has shown that people survive the virus better when treated early and this can only be made possible if people make themselves available for testing. According to him, early treatment is efficacious and only a few know their status but there is a long time survival for those that are HIV positive. “If people do not know their status, their health may be threatened in this era of available accessible and affordable care and treatment. Tanzania like other African states has been supported by donor agencies over the fight of HIV/AIDS disease. Various case studies have been carried out including voluntary testing and counseling which are important part of prevention to behaviour change. VCT is a primary entry point that enables one to know of his/her status, knowledge is power and knowing what is going on with your health and body is a responsibility of oneself, says a woman who is happy with her health after attending several clinics for HIV check up in Dar es Salaam. Mrs. Sofia Lema is a 32-year-old married woman with four children residing in Pugu-Kinyamwezi on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam city. In August 2007, she decided to attend Amana clinic in Ilala district in Dar es Salaam region as part of a nationwide HIV campaign which was launched by President Jakaya Kikwete that aimed at every citizen to know their HIV status. Mrs. Lema was one of 700 new clinic attendees seeking reproductive health services in Ilala District in a typical month during 2007 HIV testing campaign. With USAID support, the district's family planning clinics have initiated comprehensive programs designed to prevent mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV/AIDS.
After participating in health education concerning HIV/AIDS, MTCT, and learning about the benefits of voluntary counseling and testing, Mrs. Lema decided to take an HIV test. She realized that she could be at risk because her husband had an extra-marital relationship, which had strained their marriage considerably. Following her participation in VCT, Mrs. Lema learned that her test results were negative. Her marital problems, however, continued. In January 2008, she returned to the clinic and took a second HIV/AIDS test. Again, her results were negative. During March 2009, she managed to convince her husband to participate in voluntary counseling and testing although he was initially reluctant to learn his status. During post-test counseling her husband learned that his test results were negative. He felt greatly relieved. In a follow-up test later in the year, his status was again confirmed as negative. The couples were very happy with the outcome and reported that VCT had helped them improve their marital relationship. Without being suspicious of each other, they are now able to discuss their relationship more openly and honestly. The husband is determined to follow the counseling advice in order to remain sero-negative and avoid transmitting infection to his wife and future children. Mr. and Mrs. Lema now go to the clinic once each week to encourage other women and their partners to participate in VCT. From couples’ point of view, there are still a lot to be done but for those who have been tested, they now know their status and those who are negative are doing everything they can to keep their situation together with changing their behaviours to avoid infections. Those positive are also doing everything to live by taking Anti-retroviral Therapy (ARV) if they have to or by living positively. HIV counseling is the only gateway to prevent this deadly disease called HIV because if one cannot go for testing and counseling, how will you know your status?

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