Columnists

There’s everything to gain from mandatory HIV testing

SHIKANDA Kawanga.

Analysis: SHIKANDA KAWANGA
WHAT is better, not knowing one’s status and die anyway or knowing and tame the disease?

This is a question that begs for an answer, especially from some men who have received the declaration by President Lungu that HIV testing is now mandatory with mixed feelings.
Some men would argue that everyone will die whether they know their status or not.
So here’s the truth. You do not want HIV, but if you have it, it is much better to know you are HIV-positive so that you can seek treatment and get back to living a happy healthy life.
And if you don’t have it, good for you because you will ensure that you maintain your HIV-negative status.
It is important for people who are HIV-negative to value and know their status so they protect themselves and get smarter when it comes to HIV prevention.
Going to get an HIV test is usually something that people dread. And it’s like the HIV/AIDS activists cannot find the right message to put across to address the many fears that people have when it comes to HIV testing.
It is worth noting that the after-effects of fear and that of the HIV virus can never be compared hence the need to undergo a test for the benefit of your family and productivity of the country.
It’s normal to feel worried and concerned about HIV. But why let yourself fear the unknown? Testing early for HIV can help put your mind at ease and reduce the anxiety of not knowing.
The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. A lot of people feel nervous about it, but the reasons and benefits to test far outweigh the reasons not to test.
Whether your result is negative or positive, it’s always better to know so that you can move on with your life, or start treatment if necessary. But remember, the HIV testing result may not be what you expect.
If you have HIV, being diagnosed at an early stage means that you have a better chance of living a long and healthy life.
HIV attacks your immune system. If you’re diagnosed early, you have a greater chance of protecting your immune system before it gets too weak resulting in opportunistic infections. This helps one to live a long and healthy life.
Being diagnosed early also means you can help protect your current and future sexual partners. HIV treatment, called antiretroviral drugs helps to lower the levels of the virus in the body.
HIV transmission cannot be eliminated if individuals do not know their HIV status. Whether they are HIV-positive or HIV-negative, an HIV test is the only way to determine if a person is living with the virus or not.
Once an individual knows they’re living with HIV, safer behaviours may be practised to reduce or eliminate the likelihood of transmission.
Testing for HIV regularly means that you can look after your sexual health and that of your partner. If you’re positive, you can prevent HIV from being transmitted to your partner by using a condom every time you have sex and by being on treatment.
If you have been exposed to events that could result in HIV infection, quickly rush to the hospital for medication attention. But it is cardinal to test three months after being exposed.
If you feel you are at risk of being infected with HIV, it is also a good idea to test regularly.
The fact is that HIV is preventable, and you can reduce or eliminate the risk. And early detection can lead to early treatment and better outcomes.
Many people live long, normal lives with early detection and proper care because the advancements in HIV options have been significant.
Therefore, it is better to know your HIV status and appreciate Government for making it mandatory for anyone who visits any public health facility for any ailment to test for the virus and immediately commence treatment once found positive.
The author is Livingstone-based Zambia Daily Mail correspondent.

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