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Why you must test for HIV

By Vision Reporter

Added 30th November 2005 03:00 AM

The advent of Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and better HIV management has made it easier for people who feared the test to know their status. Benefits of testing According to Dr Mpango Lydia of International Medical Centre, ignorance of your HIV status is risky. If infected, the disease can advan

By Hilary Bainemigisha
The advent of Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and better HIV management has made it easier for people who feared the test to know their status. Benefits of testing According to Dr Mpango Lydia of International Medical Centre, ignorance of your HIV status is risky. If infected, the disease can advance undiagnosed, compromising your prospects for future health and survival.
She gave examples of some fatal diseases like meningitis, which strike when your immunity falls to around CD4 count of 150. “And some people may still be looking healthy at that stage. It is therefore risky to wait for sickness before you can test. You may not get that warning.”
Dr Lilliane Nabiddo of Mildmay centre, says testing enables one to access ARVs, which prolong quality and productive life.
According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) sponsored research by Alto Health Care System, a one-time HIV testing increases the life expectancies of individuals (and their partners) by an average of 4.7% of quality-adjusted days. Patients, whose HIV was discovered earlier and treated sooner, live 1.5 years longer on average without ARVs. Testing also helps on the survival of your offspring. Paediatrician, Dr Monica Etima actually advises all girls intending to get pregnant to go for HIV testing first. “Even for pregnant women, finding out your status helps PMTCT (Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission) centres handle your counselling, comprehensive antenatal care, ARVs, modified obstetric care and safe infant feeding to save your child,” the doctor said.
And when people know they have HIV, they tend to live positively and live longer. Bakunda Alice, a Psychosocial Support Officer at Mildmay Centre, says that the counselling empowers people to live better lives. “People acquire serious appreciation of time which improves their economic investment vigour, reduce wastage and employ precautionary measures like writing of a will and insurance,” she said. Mildmay centre’s director of clinical services, Dr Emmanuel Luyirika says testing is the only way to identify discordant couples. Discordance is where two sexual partners have different HIV results. “Discordance is common and the percentages vary from 8% to 45% of testing couples. Couples should therefore find out if they are discordant so that they take precautions. Repeated sexual exposure is risky”, he says.
What if you are positive? According to Luyirika, a positive result means you are carrying the virus that causes AIDS and it is for life under the current level of medical research. It does not mean that you have AIDS or that you will necessarily get AIDS. It is not a death sentence.
l Choose a doctor to monitor the progression of HIV in your body, monitor your immune system and advise you on when it is appropriate to begin treatment. A doctor who specialises in HIV care is better.

- Start treatment and intervention as soon as you are told to. Adhere to your ARV treatment.
- Make sure your sexual partners are informed of your status and requested to test too. There could be a case of discordance, which requires special attention.
- Start living positively and avoid high-risk behaviour like drunkenness, smoking and promiscuity.
- Take precautions to prevent infecting others and getting reinfected.
- Pregnant mothers can take advantage of treatments that may prevent transmission of HIV to the baby.
- Couples can decide to shun pregnancy to avoid infecting their baby or put the pregnant mother’s health at risk.
- You should not donate blood, plasma, semen, body organs, or other tissue.
- Make sure you take the test again after eight weeks.
- Make it routine to attend post-test counselling and link up with other people living with HIV for networking, sharing of experience, information and anti-AIDS concerted efforts.

Why you must test for HIV

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