HIV/AIDS TEST: PUB­LIC FEAR RISE OF SUI­CIDE CASES

Sunday Observer - - NEWS - STO­RIES BY FOR­TUNE NDLANGAMANDLA

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.

(Pic:

In­struc­tions on how to con­duct the HIV/AIDS self test.

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