It’s World AIDS Day today. Do you really think it doesn’t affect you?
As the educated class, we have been bombarded with so much information concerning HIV and AIDS. We know its history. We know how it’s transmitted. We know the debilitating effects it can cause to anyone that contracts it. We know that it can be personally prevented. We know that we can prevent unborn children from contracting it. We know that if we contract it, we can manage its effects and still lead a normal life.
But when did you last go for an HIV test?
And even though you know so much about HIV, how much of it do you practice? I’ve heard so many shock stories about apparently educated peers who are completely retarded when it comes to their knowledge about sexually transmitted infections. Pulling out early does not ensure you don’t transmit infections. A girl not keeping condoms at home because it’s the guy’s responsibility is not acceptable. Having a shower does not work even though our president did that.
This virus does not discriminate. The fact that you have two degrees and are currently in a vital job in society does not mean HIV will bypass you. We ALL have a responsibility to protect ourselves. We ALL have the responsibility to fight it.
We also have a responsibility to know our status. We all do. Whether you’re sexually active or not, we all should regularly go for a test to ascertain our status.
With this in mind, I personally wanted to find out how easy it is to go for a test.
So I did what everyone nowadays does, I turned to social media. Have you noticed now that social media exists; people are completely and utterly lazy and tend to ask for step-by-step instructions for everything? But I digress. One tweet later and I was bombarded with useful replies on the many resources available.
Two important resources were highlight.
- http:///www.info4africa.org.za – This is a national HIV resources directory carrying over 12000 support services for HIV. Their mobi site (http://hiv911.storefind.mobi) is the best resource as it geolocates you and points you to the closest resource available.
- http://www.medpages.co.za – This is not specific to HIV related resources but covers the entire health care profession. I was able to find the closest clinic to my area using this resource.
Both of these resources are amazing. Within a few minutes, I was able to pinpoint a usable location. Unfortunately, as a resident of Sandton, finding a free (e.g. clinic) was harder than I thought.
This worried me but, well, it also pointed to the way our society works. Clinics, in modern South Africa, are not places where the middle to upper classes would frequent. Where possible, the richer members of society solely rely on private healthcare. I’ve heard many stories of incidents occurring in Sandton with someone that does not have medical aid. They had to be driven all the way to Charlotte Maxeke (Johannesburg General Hospital) in Parktown for treatment. Here you are greeted by queues as people wait for treatment. On the way, you probably will pass about ten private hospitals, all which were probably eerily silent. This is scary as we actually have the specialists, the medical technologies and all the resources available in the country yet it is vastly underutilised because of the power of the rand.
For any medical malady, a Sandton resident would visit a private doctor that may or may not be resident at a private hospital. The payment for this would come from their pocket or medical aid. In using this private facility, they are assured of a certain level of quality as perceived by them. An equivalent government facility would be perceived to be of inferior quality and the resident would not consider using them. So by building several clinics in Sandton, you are basically going to be creating infrastructure that will not be used by the locals because of this perception.
This is where your problem comes in. Free HIV tests are basically only available through government facilities. You can get it done at a private institute but the test will cost you money. The fact that it costs you money means many people have not been for an HIV test for many a year. This is rather irresponsible. This is not an easily solvable problem.
The bottom line should actually be that whether it costs you or not, you NEED to do a test regularly.
When I used the HIV911 Mobile Application whilst in Sunninghill, it picked up nothing. There were no facilities that would do a test near me. This freaked me out a bit and made me think about what I just relayed to you in the preceding paragraphs. Luckily, @info4africa told me about the Sandown Clinic.
I didn’t actually utilise the clinic (although in hindsight, I should have done it for the sake of this article) but rather the FREE facility offered by my company.
I trekked on over to head office and walked into the medical centre. Being a rather large company, there is always a huge backlog when it comes to medical appointments. I walked up nonchalantly and asked if I can do an HIV test. Within three minutes I was told to follow the blue feet to the consulting room.
This impressed me that my request concerning HIV was taken quite seriously. We have to hand it to the big corporates for placing so much emphasis on the virus.
So I walk into the room. The nurse is not there yet so I go over and peruse the information booklets on HIV. She walks in, smiles and directs me to a seat.
I explain to her that I am here for a routine check. I mention that I am quite sure that I am negative and have not been involved in any activities that could potentially have exposed me to the virus. I think this then caused her to skip the usual pre-test counselling although she did ask me on more than one occasion if I am ready for either outcome. I said yes I was. We proceed with the test.
The rapid test comes in a sealed package containing all you need. Your finger is pricked and the blood placed onto a little contraption device thingy and the test solution is placed onto your blood. Then you wait…
Maybe I should have got some counselling as once the test was done, I was overcome by some serious OMG WTF freaking out behaviour. I seriously had nothing to worry about but every compromising situation that occurred between the last test and this test flashed through my mind. I wondered about all the times that I was drunk in foreign locations where anybody could have pricked me with a needle. I thought about times when I embraced someone that could potentially have had an open wound. All these were ludicrous thoughts to ponder! Like seriously. But these all go through your mind in those five minutes that you wait for your results! I actually woke up from my chair and walked around the room to regain composure. I asked the nurse for some water and made some excuse about me being very queasy when I see blood. Yes I do get queasy but that was totally not what was happening right there.
Those five minutes were probably the most hardcore five minutes I’ve had in a long time!
Eventually the test results are ready. My heart is still pounding.
It then perplexes me as to why I worried at all. Being positive does not mean it’s a death sentence. It doesn’t even mean I cannot have children. It would only mean I need to ensure I lead a healthy life. That’s it. There are other diseases which could shorten my life much more than HIV would. It is vitally important that you know your status. Both the public and private sector is committed to supporting sufferers of this virus but you can only get the support if you know your status. We all are vital components to the well-being of our society. You know that you are currently in a job that relies on your skill to achieve results. Why compromise yourself and waste your skill by not taking measures to ensure you are productive for as long as possible. Not knowing your status means you’re doing exactly that – you’re purposefully shortening your life and shortening the time you can make a difference in this world.
Even though all this education is around us, we must admit that we still are irresponsible. As always, change starts with you. I’ve rounded up a few resources you can use in Jozi to get tested.
When to go: Go now!
How to get there: The focus of this blog was on the northern suburbs so I’m just going to list the clinics in and around the Sandton area. All of these are listed on Medpages along with many others.
Sandown: Corner Maude and West – 011 883 7833
Bryanston: Corner Main and Cross – 011 706 3960
Witkoppen: 105 William Nicol Drive – 011 705 2438
Wendywood: Corner Wendy and Darwin – 011 802 1095
If the rapid test comes up positive, you can do the blood test to confirm this at these clinics. Clicks and Dischem also do the tests although the nurse does not do the necessary counselling required. You should phone ahead to see if they offer these services. You can also get the test done at a local hospital. Some will offer FREE tests on World AIDS Day.
These resources are also very helpful:
Right to Know Campaign: http://www.righttoknow.co.za/
Info 4 Africa (Formerly HIV911): http:///www.info4africa.org.za
South Africa has a National AIDS helpline. You can call them toll-free on 0800 012 322.
Cost: At a clinic, it’s free. Call you medical aid to find out other rates.
Anything Else: Seriously people, be safe and get tested. I cannot stress this enough.