Saturday, February 26, 2011

Testing for couples is a preventive strategy against HIV infections

Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) is a major initiative adopted with the aim of providing the opportunity for people to know their HIV status with quality support to help them cope with a positive or a negative test result. Knowing one is HIV negative can serve as a strong motivating factor to remain negative, particularly for those who may otherwise assume it’s too late to adopt safer sexual practices. Knowing one is HIV positive also provides an opportunity to protect sexual partners and to plan for the future from an informed position - deciding on marriage and on child bearing, and preparing children and family for the progression of disease and death. For people who test positive, while VCT services can link them to options for treatment if and where they exist, and to care and support, just as important, it allows for adoption of preventive measures. For some, self-protection is a stronger motivator for safer sex than the need to protect others. The responsibility to avoid spreading the virus is itself the critical motivator. Both contribute to HIV prevention. Today, there are many HIV positive people who are living healthy and positive lives. They serve as strong and effective HIV/AIDS advocates and also provide valuable support and motivation for others who are infected with HIV and affected by the epidemic. Agnes, aged 27 is residing at Mtoni-Kijichi suburb in Temeke district, Dar es Salaam region. She is married and the mother of two children. She found herself pregnant again and went to her local health center for antenatal services. Agnes did not want to take any chances with this pregnancy. Having received health education at the clinic, she decided to take an HIV test and found to her dismay that she was sero-positive. When her husband learned her results, she convinced him to be tested as well, partly because he had become ill several months earlier and was worried. He too learned he was HIV positive. The couple found great comfort in the supportive follow-up and counseling for HIV/AIDS and infant feeding that they received at the clinic. Agnes delivered a healthy baby boy a few weeks later. After assessing the infant feeding options presented by the counselor, the couple decided to breastfeed exclusively for six months. This child is currently growing well. Because of their positive experience, the two couples now encourages other couples to be counseled and tested. Good counseling and testing depends on counselors who are properly trained for the exercise and have gained enough experience. Counselors protects confidentiality of a client’ information after testing and provide effective counseling services. Counselors should establish relationships with key service agencies to make sure the referrals they give their clients reflects to their needs, priorities, culture, age, sexual orientation and language. Knowledge is power and knowing what is going on with your health and body is a responsibility that somebody owes to himself or herself and those who cares about it.
Why is HIV/AIDS testing is important especially to couples? The only way to tell if one is safe and free from HIV infections, the viruses that cause AIDS is to be tested. Through getting tested can be one of the most empowering things one can do for his/her own health care. A patient normally receive a face –to-face counseling before they undergo the normal body test. This is known as Pre-Test Counseling and is aimed at ensuring that one make a well informed decision about whether to have the HIV/AIDS test or not. It then encourages one to explore the possible impact that having the test may have on one’s life, and through this test people become aware of their health status and thereby reduces long stress within themselves. Tanzania face a mature, generalized HIV epidemic among the 2.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS. Statistics by Tanzania Commission for Aids (TACAIDS) shows a tremendous rate of 70.5 percent of the people infected by the scourge are grouped between 25-40 years old. According to the above, the highest population at higher risk includes people in prostitution, miners, police officers, military personnel, prisoners, and those involved in transport sector, mostly drivers and their close aides. Like other countries in East Africa, the epidemic in Tanzania has remained stable in recent years but there has been a recent increase in HIV prevalence among older age group with the HIV prevalence rate among women aged between 30 to 34 reaching 13 percent. The government through its various HIV fighting organs such as the civil society groups, is highly encouraging its people to come forward to be tested for HIV. The government believes that if many gets tested, even though we may not get sick, this would help to lessen the amount of stigmatization associated with the HIV test. The greatest challenge facing the health sector is inadequate human resources to deliver health services to the Tanzanian population. Since the 1990s, the structural adjustment policies and HIV/AIDS has greatly reduced the health sector work force. A second challenge is poverty, important because the cost of drugs and health services has constituted a financial barrier to the access of these important things.

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