The power of self

There is still such stigma around young women going to get tested for HIV. It’s almost implied that you shouldn’t get tested, and not that you shouldn’t be having unprotected sex.

Luckily, there are new options. Supermarkets and pharmacies are increasingly stocking home HIV tests that you can buy and use in your own space without a feeling of being watched or judged. These are quick and convenient self-screening tests, very similar to home pregnancy tests. The result is a sign of one or two lines or ( + /- ). In case of a positive reading, you still need to go to a clinic to confirm your status. The clinic will suggest the correct course of action – these days starting ARV treatment as soon as possible after finding out about the HIV-positive status is a preferred medical protocol.

I know that this might seem like it is defeating the purpose of self-screening in the first place, but this is why you should be doing it anyway as was the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day on Dec. 1:

Getting tested is absolutely vital and self-screening is a quick and easy way to know your status. But of course, it’s not just about knowing your status, it’s about using that information to inform your behaviour. If your result is negative then you can go on to use preventative measures such as tried-and-tested condoms and newer options like oral PrEP.

If your result is positive then you can find out more about what this means, what changes you need to make and how to be healthy. Professional counselling is very important at this stage so that you can receive information that will help you lead a healthy lifestyle and get the support that you need.

Every year without fail, we commemorate World AIDS Day but I think we have forgotten how HIV/AIDS spreads. Of course, this can happen in various ways but I am specifically referring to unprotected sex. It just takes that one time.

Bearing in mind that it’s not just about you, let’s recognise that it also involves your partner. You should both make sure that you are aware of your status.

Even if you think you are with a trusted partner, you can still get infected. This is why couples testing is suggested. And you don’t need to go to the clinic to do this. Often, men aren’t as willing to go to the clinic to get tested and self-screening could be the best option. You can buy self-screening tests and do them together.

That’s just to make sure that you are both on the same page and are both always aware of your status. But don’t forget, HIV (and AIDS) can be completely prevented by simply using condoms. Every. Single. Time. And a few other safe sex options are on the table, and researchers are working on more.

So, stay safe! Whether it’s World AIDS Day or any other day of the year.

Please note that I’m not an expert, I’m just a conscious and concerned young woman making sure my fellow women are safe, happy and healthy.

Photo caption: An example of an HIV self testing kit.

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