Testing for HIV Before Marriage

Richard Katebe - kitweonlineMany efforts have been made by different organizations that fight the scourge of HIV and AIDS to sensitize people, of the need to take an HIV test in order to know their status. Such efforts have been met with mixed responses from the public. Some have chosen to be tested while others have not, due to a variety of reasons.

People who are considering marriage have been encouraged to take an HIV test as a couple so that they know how to practice safe sex in the event that either one of them is HIV positive. There have been some negative responses to this approach by some sections of society in that some people have had the fear of losing their loved ones if their spouse found out about their HIV status.

This kind of reasoning has led to families losing their loved ones at a tender age. Imagine a situation where a well behaved young lady who has led a decent life, perhaps who is even a virgin, being given away in marriage to the love of her life; a love of her life who has had a dark past of a careless sex life style unknown to his spouse.

The young and unsuspecting lady would be led into a marriage that would spell doom to her young and promising life. This situation could also happen the other way round, where a man who has lived a decent life decides to marry an infected woman; a status unknown to him.

A typical counselling  session here shows the gloomy side of keeping secrets of one’s status from their partner.

A client went for voluntary counselling  and testing with his spouse. His outward appearance was that of a healthy person. He was calm and composed when he entered the counselling  room. The counselor welcomed him and offered him a seat.

Below is a verbatim of the counselling  session.

 

COUNSELOR:

 Come in and please take a seat.

ABBERA: 

Thank you, sir.

COUNSELOR:

Good morning and welcome; how are you?

ABBERA:

Well as you can see, I’m  fine and how are you?

COUNSELOR:

 I’m  fine too thank you.

ABBERA:

It is good to know that you are fine (smiles).

COUNSELOR:

 My name is RODWELL, I’m  40 years old and I’m  married. I’m  a counselor here at this clinic and I live in Parklands. May I know you sir?

ABBERA:

 My name is ABBERA, I’m  45 years old and I’m  married with an 8 year old daughter. I’m  a businessman and I have a shop at chisokone market.

COUNSELOR:

What can I do for you sir?

ABBERA:

I have come here so that I can take an HIV test in order for me to know my status.

COUNSELOR:

Ok fine, before we proceed I would like us to agree on a few things. The discussion we are about to have shall remain confidential.

The confidentiality of this discussion shall be sustained provided that you do not become a danger to others or to yourself. Our discussion will take up to a maximum of 45 minutes. Do you have any problems with that? What language are you comfortable with to use in this session?

ABBERA:

I have no problems with that; as for language we may continue in English. I’m  able to express myself in English. You know some of us sat the Cambridge exams. I may occasionally use Bemba where I cannot express myself clearly in English (laughs).

COUNSELOR:

Now coming back to the issue, you said that you would like to know your HIV status, why would you like to know your HIV status?

ABBERA:

I would like to know my HIV status due to the fact that I’m not comfortable with the current physical appearance of my wife. She has been having skin rashes and a certain kind of cough that worries me a lot.

COUNSELOR:

If I heard you correctly, you said that the physical appearance of your wife and the rashes have prompted you to take a test, what makes you think that all those things that you attribute to your wife are related to the question of the HIV status of a person?

ABBERA:

You see, Rodwell, I listen a lot to the radio especially when programmes to do with HIV and AIDS are aired on radio. In most of the programmes they talk about these symptoms (smiles).

COUNSELOR:

Do you mean that you suspect that your wife could be HIV positive?

ABBERA:

Aah No, mmh yes, mostly all I want to know is my HIV status, given the background that my wife has physical features that point to the information that I have gathered about HIV and AIDS.

COUNSELOR:

You said that you have interacted with information about HIV and AIDS, what is HIV and AIDS?

ABBERA:

I know that HIV is a virus that causes AIDS.

COUNSELOR:

How does this virus cause AIDS and how is it acquired?

ABBERA:

I may not know exactly how it causes aids, but what I do know is that it is acquired through sexual intercourse

COUNSELOR:

When you say through sexual intercourse what do you mean, exactly how?

ABBERA:

I mean that sex without the use of a condom.

COUNSELOR:

Is intercourse the only way to get HIV and AIDS?

ABBERA:

No. Even through sharing razor blades, needles and other sharp pricking objects that may have blood which is contaminated with the HIV virus. In fact this issue was even talked about on Radio Icengelo, on a programme that I was listening to last Saturday.

 COUNSELOR:

I want to take you back a bit. You said that you have come here because of what you have observed about your wife’s physical appearance these days, have you told her that you were coming for a test here and have you spoken to her about this matter?

ABBERA:

Oh yes, I have told her. In fact she has come with me here. She has remained outside.

COUNSELOR:

Why have you left her outside? Wouldn’t you like to be counselled as a couple?

ABBERA:

We have agreed to take a test, but we have chosen to be counselled separately.

COUNSELOR:

Why have you chosen to be counselled separately?

ABBERA:

Well, that is how my wife wants it to be. I cannot object to that. You know these days we have learned to recognize rights of women. It is her right to insist that she should be counselled separately.

COUNSELOR:

How long have you been married to your wife?

ABBERA:

We have been married for 10 years now.

COUNSELOR:

Is this your first marriage?

 ABBERA:

No, this is my second marriage. My first marriage only lasted a year. My wife deserted me and ran off to follow her parents when they decided to relocate to their village in Malawi.

 

COUNSELOR:

DID you have any children with your first wife?

ABBERA:

No.

COUNSELOR:

What about your current wife, was she married before meeting you?

ABBERA:

Yes, she was married to her first husband for three years before we got married. She too did not have any children in her first marriage. They divorced before I met her.

COUNSELOR:

Do you think that testing for HIV will help you once you know your status?

ABBERA:

Yes it will

COUNSELOR:

How will it help you?

ABBERA:

If I know my status, I will be able to have a good diet if I’m  found to be positive and I will also be able to access ARV’S just like one of my friends who is HIV positive. He is doing fine and he looks healthy because he is taking medication.

 

COUNSELOR:

How would your wife react if she found that you have tested HIV positive?

ABBERA:

She would take it well in her stride. We would not be scared because at least it will help us to know how to manage our lives and be able to live longer. One thing you should know is that I’m  not scared of any results because I know and I have seen the benefits of testing for HIV through my friends whom I have seen coping well with the disease.

COUNSELOR:

If I heard you right, you are saying that we can proceed to test you. Am I right?

ABBERA:

Yes Sir, you may proceed.

COUNSELOR:

I will lead you to the laboratory so that you may have your blood samples collected for testing and you may have to wait for at least 20 minutes for the results. After your results are ready, we will have another session similar to this one before your results can be released to you and to your wife together as a couple.

ABBERA:

OK, that is fine with me lets go ahead.

 

It may seem monotonous, reproducing the verbatim of the counselling  session with ABBERA’s wife LIZZY. We can only examine serious talking points which are reflected in the responses in ABBERA’s session.

Why did LIZZY insist on being counselled alone? Did she have a dark past? Why did ABBERA accept to be counselled separately too? Was he sincere that he wanted to respect his wife’s rights? Would some further probe on this issue from the counselor have revealed some dark secrets of ABBERA?

The counselling session that was done with LIZZY highlighted shocking revelations. When asked why she wanted to be counselled separately, LIZZY revealed that she was in her third marriage with ABBERA. She said that those facts were not known to ABBERA. She said that she knew exactly what type of questions she was to be asked in the counselling session as she had been through counselling before. She was worried that some questions would cause her to reveal her past to her husband.

She said that she had a child in her first marriage. The child died at the age of two. The father to the child died a year later. She married her first husband when she was only 16 years old.

 Lizzy got married for a second time. Her second husband died within three years of their marriage at the time she was 6 months pregnant with their child. The child died within two months of its birth. When she met ABBERA she had relocated from Livingstone to Kabwe where they met. She left Livingstone, leaving her dark past.

She knew all along that she was HIV positive but she failed to tell ABBERA. The insistence by her husband to go for counselling and testing was what she welcomed as she felt that it would provide a way of letting her husband know the truth about her status without having to dwell so much about her past.

The decision for her to be counselled and tested during that time at the clinic was a mere academic “exercise for her”. She was already taking ARV’s. According to her account, ABBERA was too busy to even notice that she had been on medication for a long time.

Luckily enough for ABBERA when the results came, he was HIV negative. Three different tests confirmed him negative. Their daughter too was HIV negative. LIZZY has continued taking medication with the support of her husband. 

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  1 comment for “Testing for HIV Before Marriage

  1. GODFREY KAMANGU
    November 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    ABBERA TRUELY LOVES LIZZY. HE IS A MAN TO EMULATE. NOW I NEED YOU TO HELP ME WITH THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF LIZZY WHO IS HIV POSITIVE BEING IN MARRIEGE WITH ABBERA WHO IS HIV NEGATIVE?

    I WILL GREATLY APPRECIATE YOUR QUICK RESPONSE TO MY QUESTION. I NEED TO KNOW!

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