HIV testing was rescheduled to the day originally scheduled for our nutrition sensitization and we didn’t find out about the change until 2 days before…no surprise. However, we were able to mobilize in the community to let them know the date change…it was just disappointing because our HIV sensitization was all about knowing your status and now we had to delay the testing four another 4 days. We had around 125 people turn out to get tested and St. Mary’s (testing group) did a great job accommodating the large number of people and counseling. I had been asked numerous times at the borehole if I was going to get tested. At first I thought, Africa, needles…no way! However, on the day of, I felt the urge to get tested and went through the entire process…including sitting with the women who were waiting for their results. I wasn’t really all that nervous about my own status, but I tried to put myself in their shoes to try to understand the courage it would take to find out one’s status, knowing it could completely change your life.
When they called my name, I figured they would say, “Great, here are your results, thanks for coming.” But instead, they took me over behind the goat shed (the testing took place at our compound), for privacy, and we sat in plastic chairs (a little too close for comfort), and the counselor began asking me questions, “why did you come to get tested today?” “Do you have a boyfriend/husband?” “Why is it important to know your status?” The questions kept coming…and at this point I hadn’t even heard my status yet. For half a second I thought to myself…could I be positive? No…no way. But I still found myself getting a little apprehensive…finally…I hear the words, “Well, Rebekah, you are not HIV positive.” Huge sigh of relief…not exactly…but I did break out into a smile and thank him for his work, but quickly got out of my plastic chair and back out into the open.
The majority of the turnout consisted of women, which did not surprise me. When we went around doing door-to-door surveys many women said they knew their status, however, they did not know their husbands status. It is sad…the lack of disclosure between husband and wife here. There is a lack of trust and an obvious lack of concern as to how their choices affect one another. Men dislike the idea of using condoms here (at least in the village) and wouldn’t dream of using them with their wives. With a high trend of infidelity (side-dishing) here, I know I would live in fear of contracting the disease, even if I was faithful to my husband.
Hopefully, our message at the HIV outreach was one of hope. Mostly women attended the outreach. We approached the idea of disclosure, of being tested together with your spouse, but unfortunately the ones who needed to hear that the most, the men, where not in attendance. Life is not over here, once you test HIV positive, which we also emphasized in our message, especially through a testimony of a mother of 2 who had lost her husband to AIDS. The health centers have ARV’s available once you reach a certain CD4 count and they have a support program, called Positive Living. The day was a success…I’m anxious to hear about the results!