Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

AIDS testing: Yes or No

Probably one of the largest campaigns against AIDS is the Know Your Status campaign. Young and old wear T-shirts with this slogan and along the roads in Swaziland (and I am sure in many other African countries) huge billboards shout out the same message.
One of the questions which I struggle with is why people are encouraged to know their status. Knowing your status will only mean something if you are going to do something with that knowledge. If you are found to be HIV-negative, then you have to make certain decisions in your life to ensure that you remain negative. If you are found to be HIV-positive, then you also have to make certain decisions about your life about not spreading the virus. My fear is that this is not communicated to people being tested. Therefore, people queue to be tested at a VCT clinic, leaving afterwards with the results, but without always realising the implications of the results which they had received.
In my experience, the C in VCT (Voluntary Counselling and Testing) does not come to its right. Counselling, in my opinion, entails a detailed conversation before and after the test with the person who wants to be tested in which the implications are explained in detail. The person needs to be prepared that there is a possibility that the test may be positive. What would this mean? Is this an immediate death sentence? What are the options? But more importantly people have to be told and counselled to make a change in their life-style. And I don’t think that this is done, most probably because abstinence and faithfulness are not very popular words nowadays. And some people, once they know that they are HIV-positive, seem to have an attitude that this gives them a ticket to be (or to keep on being) promiscuous as they are going to die in any case.
Personally I do encourage people to be tested, especially if I suspect that they may be HIV-positive. But the reason I do this is in order for myself or one of our caregivers to be able to start a journey with this person on how to handle this new situation – how to live positively being HIV-positive.
But to be tested just because the clinics offer the service, is not necessarily a good thing.

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Monday, August 20, 2007 - Posted by | HIV & AIDS, Mission, Swaziland

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