By Chibuike Alagboso
On radio, television and social media, individuals are advised to go for voluntary HIV testing, usually free at designated centers. While some individuals are not new to the system, many are just going for the test for the first time.
For the first-timer, the feeling could be overwhelming as a result of the stigma that is still associated with HIV infection in Nigeria. I spoke to Nigerians from various parts of the country on their first HIV test experience; they also shared their thoughts on how the process could be revamped to encourage more people to get tested for the dreaded virus.
Chrys, Lagos state
Had the first screening in 2006 as a student and the result was negative. Did it because I just wanted to know my status. Did the screening without counseling and I don’t consider it ideal. I advice everyone out there to check and know their status to help them adopt healthier lifestyles if they negative or visit the nearest Heart to Heart center for their ARDS of they are positive.
NK, Plateau state
I did the test for the first time about 2 years ago. Did the test because I had access to the test kit. My reason for not doing it all this while isn’t because I haven’t had access to any kit but because I saw it as embarrassing going to a diagnostic laboratory to be checked. The reason is because everyone is at risk of this infection, so I didn’t know what the outcome would be. While waiting for the test to complete, I had butterflies inside, but when the serum moved and there was no test band, it was party for me. To know our status is a necessity, and will help keep one from unsure worries.
Anonymous, Imo state
First time was in 2008 and it was necessitated by my school medical clearance. Wouldn’t have considered doing it if not for the clearance because I didn’t consider it necessary probably because I wasn’t living a risky lifestyle. Am aware of other routes of transmission though aside sexual intercourse. I however did a second test sometime last year because the doctor requested it. I would have still done it at one time or the other because I share clipper in barbing saloons. I only received counseling after the screening when I did the first screening. I advise everyone out there to try to know their status cos it’s not thru sex alone as most of us think.
Ogechi, Delta state
Did the first test in 2006. The opportunity presented itself during my department’s health week and I took it. There was nothing spectacular about waiting for the result. I didn’t feel anything. Didn’t even remember I did the test till my name was called for the result. I was appropriately counseled before and after the test. To anyone who don’t know their status, I say – it;s nothing to be scared of, just go and get tested.
Obini, Ebonyi state
Did the screening first time in 2011 because it was required during my documentation after I got a job offer in a hospital. I wouldn’t have considered doing it if not for the job offer because I know myself very well. Am also aware of other routes of infection. Since then, I screen myself at least once every month. On the issue of counseling, I think it is very important before screening for people with little or no knowledge about HIV/AIDS.
Ify, Lagos state
Did the test the first time about 4 years ago while a student. Did it during my department’s health week because my colleagues kept asking me to, even though I kept telling them I had nothing. They kept giving me reasons to do it. Like being cut by sharps and all that. I finally did and have done it again since then. I can’t remember if I was counseled before the screening. I advice everyone to try and know their status because no knowledge is a waste. This is because many people consider it a waste of time because they believe they are free but it’s not always so. A case in point is a 24-year old who refused doing the test without knowing he was infected. He became very ill before he agreed to do and eventually, it turned out he was positive.
My last screening was 2 months ago. Okay, first was about 4 years ago. It was one of the preliminary tests listed before my lumpectomy. I guess I would have still done the test on any other day without the procedure I had. I was not counseled before the screening and I didn’t see anything wrong with it then but now, I believe people should be motivated to want to go for screening and in my opinion, counseling them is the only way to make them feel comfortable about it. I believe everyone needs to know their individual status. If you don’t, I advise you go for screening because the truth is, knowing your status is the only way to stay clean of the virus. Because if you know you are not positive then you will learn to thread carefully.
First time was in 2005. It was required because I went for a tooth extraction and it was one of the preliminary tests before the procedure. I don’t think I would have done the test on my own because I don’t really consider it necessary and because I live a healthy lifestyle to an extent. Am also aware of other routes of transmission. Counseling wasn’t given either before or after the screening. To everyone out there, well, I think it’s good to know your status.
I have not done the test before. I haven’t brought out time for it. In fact, never really given it a thought to go for it but I think I will someday. Well, I think I will do the screening if the test is brought to me in school or Church maybe by an NGO.
First time was in 2006. A friend of mine was going to, I decided to go with him. While waiting for the result? hmmm… my heart kept skipping. I was busy recounting all the times I was pricked by needle in the saloon. There was no counseling. It would have helped if I had because I would have been calm to an extent.
Mrs Ogechi, Bayelsa
First time was in 2006. I’ve done it 7 other times since then in different locations. Decided to do it the first time with my friends because we heard so much about it. It was scary though. We were not counseled before the test then though we knew a little about it as medical students. But I will recommend counseling before and after screening for everyone even those in the health sector.
For anyone that is still unaware of their status, it’s good to know because if you are positive, it will help for early treatment and a healthier longer life but most people die within a year of knowing their status because when they have some presentation they keep taking antibiotics and herbs thereby causing more harm to the organ and aggravating the virus which by this time has advanced to AIDS and they’ll visit at terminal point.
Henry, Imo state
It was around 2009 while I was still an undergraduate. I decided to go for screening after my degree research project work. It had to do with HIV patients and their protein profile. So I worked with many HIV samples. I fell ill after the work and had some symptoms of early manifestations of HIV infection like malaise, flu, cough fever etc. It wasn’t easy summoning the courage to go for the screening. I did the test at the hospital I collected my samples. I had only post screening counseling because they did group counseling and I couldn’t attend the pre-screening counseling. I consider counseling very important for everyone before and after screening and especially for those who test positive.
My advice to everyone, especially for those without knowledge of their status is that it is important that we check our status so we can adjust our lifestyle to get more out of it. Recently two intending couples came to my lab for test and found out that they are both positive. With prompt visitation and strict adherence to ART drugs, they can live a normal life and still make babies through PMTCT programs.
Sampson, Plateau state
First time was during university days and it wasn’t an easy decision to make. An NGO organized an awareness in school so I decided to go and do mine when they started the counseling and testing session. I can’t explain reason why I was scared even though I reviewed my lifestyle and I was certain I wasn’t living a risky lifestyle. Though my main fear was other modes of infection aside sexual routes.
Getting the result and discovering it was negative really made my day. Another student was even jumping and somersaulting when he got his result and it was negative. The counselor also advised us to keep checking ourselves and since then, I’ve been doing it occasionally. I strongly recommend pre and post-counseling sessions for anyone going for HIV screening.
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