HIV/AIDS TEST: PUBLIC FEAR RISE OF SUICIDE CASES
There is no counselling when members of the public obtain HIV/ AIDS self-testing kits. This was noted on Friday when the Big Tree Calakabusha/New Start Centre was visited on Friday to ascertain the process one goes through when getting the newly introduced kits.
Since the beginning of the month, those who want to know their HIV status privately, have been availed the convenience of obtaining testing kits which call for swabbing the lining of the gums, cutting out the need for drawing of blood.
This observation had been met with mixed reactions from members of the public who stated that such a convenience might give rise to suicide cases due to the stigma still associated with being HIV positive. With the understanding that the initiative was still at pilot stage, most people said widespread implementation might give rise to people who take their lives on finding out that they were positive as there seemed to be not enough counselling prior to the dissemination of the testing kits.
Of note, when this reporter visited the Matsapha health care provider, all that the attending counsellor imparted was the correct way of using the testing kit.
At no stage did she ask this reporter about readiness to test or aptitude to deal with negative results.
Instead, she stated that people who wanted to do the voluntary self-test were those who were ready for their results, whether they come out positive or negative.
A quick swab along the top and bottom gums and 20 minutes of reactor fluid gives the result
According to Director of Health Dr Vusi Magagula, the programme is at a piloting stage and it was open to all members of public who felt they were ready to conduct their own HIV/AIDS testing.
“So far, this is a demonstration programme; we want to learn from it. We want to see challenges and issues that may come up if it can be implemented,” Magagula said.
Magagula viewed self-testing as the way to go as the whole world was introducing it. He highlighted that for now, the self-test kits could be found at selected clinics around the country, including New Start at Big Tree Complex.
He mentioned that should many challenges and issues arise from this, they would then decide on the route to take.
“We would decide whether to implement it the way it is or modify it,” he added.
Magagula further stated that even before the ministry initiated the project, there were kits available at selected retailers and banning it would not be possible as people could buy it from neighbouring countries. The view of the public was also shared by health care practitioner, specialising as a psychologist Ndo Mdlalose.
“Pre-and post-counselling is very important,” Mdlalose said.
She clarified that by saying this she did not mean HIV was different from other illnesses but pointed out that there were many false beliefs around it. She gave an example of some people who thought the Antiretroviral Treatment could be harmful. However, she men- tioned that in countries like South Africa the programme has been implemented.
Mdlalose went on to state that due to the false beliefs, the pre-and post-counselling was still crucial.
“By conducting the pre-and postcounselling exercise we intend to examine if one is ready or not for the results. The number of sessions could be extended until they are ready for positive or negative results.
It’s important to explain the importance of their results,” Mdlalose explained.
She viewed the whole process of self-testing as emotionally draining so for that reason she was not supporting it. Mdlalose went on to note that some people may do the test out of anger after discovering that their partners might have infected them. She noted the importance of talking to professionals who would help one to go through emotional breakdowns.
Instructions on how to conduct the HIV/AIDS self test.