Thousands of people living with HIV are unaware they are infected with the virus, and as such, risk spreading the disease through unsafe sex practices.
This Safer Sex Week 2017 under the theme ‘Tek Charge’ the surge in HIV diagnoses has prompted NGO and Government to engage in prevention programmes to address the situation. Not only is safer sex week limited to that of HIV and other STI prevention but also that of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.
It is safe to say that we have been growing complacency around HIV, the disease that needs to be tackled. With HIV no longer regarded as a death sentence, people are less fearful now as it is a manageable illness. No one bothers themself with the thought of HIV taking years off their lives. Reports of unprotected sex have been rising slowly, but the increase in rates of unprotected sex has resulted in more persons getting tested and diagnosed. The evolution of the rapid HIV testing, where patients get results in 20 minutes or less, and the roll out community based testing mainly via the ‘Bashy Bus’ has contributed immensely. It is true though that we need to test a lot more. Usually persons living with HIV are diagnosed years after infection; thereby risking the spread of the virus unknowingly.
While there has been steady improvements in treatment – and a sharp decline in mortality rates, in the past 6 months I have seen many of my kind – young women living with HIV, falling dead. Yes they seem to adhere to their appointments and medication as recommended but they kept exposing themselves to other ailments posing many challenges for them. So they take their medication and go to the doctor but neglect their over-all treatment plan. Do not be delusional that having acheived viral suppression means that you should go around having unprotected sex nor does it mean that it’s ok to participate in unprotected sex with your partner just because you are both infected. HIV has different strains! The key factor that is being explored is ‘test- start- treat (TST)’. A means to scale-up testing initiatives so that people who are positive can go on treatment straight away as sanctioned by WHO, treat regardless of CD4 count as treatment does have a huge prevention impact.
Social media, dating websites and the need to ‘fit in’ due to peer pressure has contributed to the fuelled increase in HIV transmission. I have concluded that there appears to be a degree of ambivalence amongst us that HIV compounded with an unintended or unwanted pregnancy is not so bad. The advances in treatment of HIV and abortion services have taken the edge off the perceived seriousness of this.
If i had known then what I know now I would have ‘tek charge’ and made different choices to shape my life. Take a young women by age but old by experience advice, choose two – condom and birth control. ALWAYS use a condom and make it YOUR responsibility to walk with a condom. Explore your options for safe sex but no matter what you choose use a condom and TEK CHARGE!