Agony Aunt: HIV

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Dear Aunt Madie
I have a relative who has developed huge pimples on his face, he coughs all the time and has lost a lot of weight. I feel very uncomfortable being in the same room with him. One of my aunts spoke to him and advised him to get tested but he brushed her off. I know I should not stigmatise him but I am afraid of getting TB. How can we convince him to get help?

I am glad that you are concerned about your relative’s health status. If your aunt and yourself cannot convince him to go for to a health centre to have investigations done to establish whether he has TB or not, you might need to get assistance from another relative or one of his close friends who might be more respected by the concerned individual. If this does not work you might need to identify community-based care organisations in your area and ask them to come and counsel your relative. We all face these challenges at one time or another where a relative or workmate refuses to take advise related to health matters. People resent such advice for fear of being discriminated against. They feel if I quickly go to the health centre, I am acknowledging that I have the suspected condition therefore they would rather refuse to in your presence and then do so later.
It would help to give him literature on the disease if you can get access to it so that he can be informed on what to expect during the process. Many people think if you have TB you are done. TB can be cured. However, it would be important to go ahead and be tested for HIV if you are found to have TB, these two are cousins. You do not mention the age of your relative, so it is difficult to say whether the pimples are related to his age, or eating habits. I do not want to say they are related to the suspected disease since he has not been to a health centre. I am sure once he attends to his cough the pimples will be sorted out as well by the medical workers if he requests for their advice.

Dear Aunt Madie
I am a 38-year-old HIV-positive man who has recently started a relationship with a 23-year-old woman. I really love her but I cannot get myself to reveal my status to her because I am afraid of losing her. We recently started having protected sex but I don’t enjoy it because I am worried that I might infect her. What can I do? I am sure she will leave me if she knows my status.

I am glad that you were bold enough to get tested because this is your entry to HIV treatment and services. However, it does not mean that when you are positive you have no right to find love. You remain a complete human being with basic needs. I believe that being honest with one another is good for any relationship. My first concern about your relationship is the age difference between you and your woman. It has been observed that inter-generational relationships fuel the spread of HIV. In most cases, the younger one in the relationship has less or no skills for negotiable safe sex. The older one is in control. If you are in the relationship for the true sense of it, you would have made it a priority that before you go on to engage in a sexual relationship, you would have shared this information about your HIV status with her. It is good that your conscience is now telling you that what you have done is wrong. Now you are worrying and you are no longer enjoying the relationship.
My advice to you is that despite what has happened I believe that it is better that you share this information on your HIV status with your partner. I suppose you need to summon the courage to either inform your girlfriend about your status yourself or with assistance from your counsellors at the health centre or counselling and testing centre. You are better off handling this early and accepting the consequences rather than waiting too long when you have invested in a relationship and later suffering heartache. She may be angry with you for not disclosing your status at the beginning but with enough counselling and time, she may accept you as you are. Another alternative is for both of you to go for the counselling and testing without disclosing your status. The process will allow both of you to receive counseling at the same time. Should she opt out of the relationship, accept with an open mind that next time you will find someone who is willing to accept you as you are. But remember to tell the person your status before you both commit yourselves. Remember that there will always be love for you if you take your time to find the right partner. I do sincerely wish you the best as you deal with your love.

Dear Aunt Madie
I am a 35 -year-old woman and my husband and I have been married for 5 years. We have one child and I couldn’t have asked for a better relationship. This was until I started hearing rumours that he was cheating on me. How can I convince him to get tested without upsetting him?

If you have been having an excellent relationship with your husband, you might bring in the subject as something that was discussed at a club, a church meeting or whatever activities you participate in.
Rather than him only going for testing, both of you need to be tested at the same time and ,if possible, on a regular basis as individuals who are engaging in sexual activities. Gone are the days when marriage institution was taken as a safe haven from HIV transmission.
Having said this, I need to mention that it was also observed that multi-concurrent relationships are drivers of HIV infections in Zimbabwe according to the study done before the launch of the behavourial change strategy in 2007. Couples need to discuss these issues to do with sex and sexuality without fear of being rejected. Being honest in relationships would save a lot of people from getting infected with HIV as they will be openly sharing their expectations with their partners.
Being faithful to your partner is a choice as do not expect couples to police one another. Relationships are based on trust. My advice in view of this is to talk to your man about the rumours after gathering enough evidence that he is cheating on you.
Otherwise if you confront him without evidence you may not achieve much except destroying what was an excellent relationship.

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