Compulsory testing: The social media way

THE announcement signals a new policy measure in response to the government’s HIV agenda of eradicating the virus by 2030.

THE month of August 15, 2017 brought back the hype on HIV/AIDS following the announcement of the mandatory testing.

President Lungu recently announced that HIV Testing, Counselling and Treatment are now compulsory in all government-run health institutions.
The announcement has been received with mixed feelings, fuelling heated debates in public and private gatherings but it is the social media that has added another dimension altogether.
A catch-word, Tipima, has evolved and it is making rounds on social media in all forms, basically to encourage people to go for compulsory HIV testing.
Tipima, in Nyanja lingua franca, means: “We are testing”, in relation to the compulsory HIV testing. It is currently trending on social media and people have interpreted it differently.
Those who support compulsory HIV testing argue that it has many benefits to both the individual and the nation.
Compulsory testing give individuals an opportunity to know their status and start medication early, thereby prolonging their lives.
The Tipima catch word designed by an unknown individual is also helping to break the silence on HIV compulsory testing.
The idea is simple: people joke, pledge on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Twitter to encourage a friend, a relative or indeed themselves to undergo HIV testing as per announcement by the President.
“This has let people talk about HIV and AIDS anywhere and from such talks, individually people have gathered courage to go and test for HIV. We were talking about it with a friend and the moment I went home, I saw the sense in our discussion and the following day, I went for testing. Because the results are confidential, I cannot disclose to anyone,” Gibson Changwe of Lusaka’s Kamwala Township says.
In effect, the goal is to turn an online social network into a resource for finding colleagues with whom one can safely confide and engage in a constructive discussion that will encourage testing.
For Mr Changwe, a thought to undergo HIV testing was stimulated by the conversation that began while on a bus after someone read a joke to friend on how quick the hashtag #Tipima on social media has gone.
The digital buzz has made many think critically of their status and those who had not tested are now contemplating to do so.
Febby Sakala of Lusaka’s Rhodespark area says it is obvious that if one is not infected, they are indeed affected.
Ms Sakala looks at how many lives have been lost all because people did not go for testing.
“Tipima means taking measurements in Mathematics and Science, while in medicine it means getting diagnosed or health check-ups. Thereafter finding an answer which in this case are result. Knowing your status is better,” Ms Sakala says.
For James Chewe, of Lusaka’s Garden Township, the Tipima catchword should be an encouragement for everyone to undergo testing and know their status.
“I think it is a self-encouragement towards knowledge about my health state. Unless the catchword was Tizaba Pima (we will test them) then it would have been discriminatory, because it is referring to a certain group but Tipima means everyone can be tested and it’s up to you to take a decision and go test,” Mr Chewe says.
But mixed feelings have arisen regarding the Tipima catchword, with some feeling it is discriminatory and should be stopped.
“In as much as we are trying to make up HIV and AIDS jokes, let us not forget that there are those living positive. Funny as it may be, it maybe injurious to those that are HIV positive. We need to refrain from posting such jokes because some people may feel alienated,” says Kondwani Banda of Lusaka’s Garden Township.
For Mr Banda, the catchword which is on the lips of many people all because of the introduction of HIV/AIDS mandatory testing is discriminatory.
“I am disappointed and I think the catchword is totally stigma in form of a joke, a joke coined by someone, somewhere who is HIV negative with the intent of mocking some people suspected to be HIV positive,” Mr Banda says.
To all those who are posting on social media and making fun of the catchword, Mr Banda has one message to them, “Take time to think about the impact and pain that this word is having on the people affected and infected. Put yourselves in their shoes. Tipima is discriminatory.”
The announcement signals a new policy measure in response to the government’s HIV agenda of eradicating the virus by 2030.
AIDS has affected Zambia’s economic growth by reducing the availability of human capital.
The ravages that AIDS has caused to the country are known as evidenced from the statistics.
According to Ministry of Health statistics, over one million Zambians have died of AIDS since the disease was first reported in the country. Currently 81 percent of all cases that result in mortality at the University Teaching Hospital are HIV related.
Moreover, new infections for females aged 15-24, males aged 25-35 have doubled.
All these statistics alone, measured against having an HIV-free generation by 2030, call for decisive action within the context of the greater good of humanity.
Without proper prevention, nutrition, health care and medicine that is available, large numbers of people are falling victim to HIV/AIDS.

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