Catherine Murombedzi Health Correspondent
THERE are a number of reasons why one cannot not disclose his or her status after testing HIV positive.
HIV testing and counselling emphasises the importance of status disclosure between sexual partners.
This is to encourage partners to also get tested. It helps prevent new infections. It increases opportunities for support and treatment for the one infected. Disclosing one’s status may be the most difficult thing to do in a serious relationship, but it sets one free and gives a chance to know each other better. While the infected partner has fears of rejection the other part may also fear getting infected. Both fears are real and need help if the two are to move on happily. I was disturbed recently when I visited my local clinic to collect my supply. This got me thinking. I ended up asking the receptionist for a chat with the nursing sister in charge of social psycho support who booked me for a discussion on my next visit.
I found the bin in the ladies bathrooms full of boxes and containers that enclose medication. This is a special type of medication, the tablets are ARVs. The tablets have a small sachet enclosed in the container. This helps keep tablets in the best form as regards moisture content.
The sachet is only to be discarded when the tablets are all used.
What I found disturbed me up to today. The boxes, containers and the sachets were both in the bins.
This means that the owners had changed the tablets packaging leaving even the sachets that maintain freshness and efficacy thrown in the bins. It got me thinking whether the tablets were still effective? What was now written on the package? Were the ARVs now in a paracetamol package? Hey, why would one go to such lengths to change the correct packaging?
There was a serious issue that needs addressing.
There is fear of being abandoned.
Fear of support from partner be it security or economic. Fear of discrimination and even violence. Fear of reaction from other family members. Then the greatest fear is accusations of infidelity. All these fears need support from a trained counsellor and for the two to understand each other’s needs. Gumisai Bonzo, an activist in the field, said acceptance was the first issue to deal with before addressing disclosure. “For me acceptance of the new status is paramount. First deal with that then moving on becomes less of a challenge,” said Bonzo.
Bonzo said some people would discard the boxes because they are bulky.
“I am just thinking in my case I am open about my status to my family and friends. I, however, find the boxes bulky so I discard the boxes remaining with the containers only. I will fill my table with the boxes if I were to carry all,” said Bonzo.Shingi Matogo a trained counsellor, said the motivating factors that help one to disclose were a feeling of responsibility and concern for the partner’s health. A need to build trust in the relationship. Need for support when health fails.
“One needs social support to cope with the HIV positive status. One needs to reduce the stress associated with non- disclosure.
The couple needs to use safe sex and prevent infecting the negative partner,” said Matogo. Another international activist, Tendai Westerhof, said the container was not marked one’s status, so why the hullabaloo.“Medication must be kept in the original container from the clinic as the container is clearly labelled with accurate instructions on the amounts and how and when to take the treatment, name of the client, source and date of expiry,” said Weaterhof. She further stated that it was easy to identify the medication in its original package.
“The container from the clinic makes it easy to store the medication and to carry in your handbag. There is no need to change the container as the container is not labelled HIV positive so there is no need to fear disclosure,” said Westerhof. Westerhof brings up important point of date of expiry. How then does one keep that in check when in a new package? Food for thought.