News

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 00:00

Time to test

Last month I announced to the World via Twitter that I finally knew my status.

This wasn't my relationship status, or my Facebook status but in fact my HIV status. After years of telling anyone who would listen about the importance of regular HIV testing, I finally took a test myself!

I have worked at a Sexual Health Clinic for nearly two years so why has it taken me so long?

In all truth, I don't really have a reason. I always meant to but just hadn't got around to it.

Of course you'll be wondering why now? It was the story a previous volunteer recently told me of being asked whether he knew his status by a child during a project and having to lie to save face. I did not want to repeat this.

In the UK we are fast approaching National HIV Testing Week. Here, estimates suggest that 25% of people living with HIV do not know their status. This leads to many of them being diagnosed at a late stage when the infection has caused significant damage to their immune system and body organs, sometimes this is too late and death follows. Testing and therefore earlier diagnosis can arrest this decline and prevent these complications.

In Kenya, in 2007 around 16% of people living with HIV were aware of their status. Today it is nearer 50%. A massive improvement but more work is required. Major reasons behind this shift include increased availability of free tests and awareness campaigns that have sought to change the perception of HIV Testing in the eyes of the public by 'normalising' it.

As promising as these figures are there is still room for improvement. People living with HIV in many African countries suffer levels of discrimination that few of us can imagine and the fear of this prevents people from coming forward to be tested. This must change as, the availability of safe, effective HIV treatment in Africa is greater than it has ever been.

CWB and Testing

The importance of testing children in countries with high HIV prevalence is even greater. Most of the time, a child testing positive will have been infected via the mother (Vertical Transmission) so not only will the child's and mother's life be saved but also potentially those of his/her siblings and father.

CWB have actively promoted HIV Testing for a number of years. This has been taken further in the last year as two of our projects have seen HIV Testing Centres running alongside cricket festivals. We remain committed to similar initiatives in the future run by Healthcare providers and NGOs that operate in the countries we visit. Like all aspects of HIV prevention and management, education is key to changing behaviour.

Introducing malleable young people to the concept of regular testing can help adjust their perceptions of HIV through education and reinforce HIV prevention messages through pre and post -test counselling.

By educating the youth, we can help change the future of the countries we visit which have all been strongly affected by HIV

Amardeep

UK National HIV Testing Week will run from 22nd-29th November. You can find a testing centre near you by accessing:

http://www.tht.org.uk/myhiv/HIV-and-you/News/Latest-News/National-HIV-Testing-Week

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