HIV is still a major problem in the country and has had an impact on the individual, the family, community and the nation as a whole. The government is trying to ensure that the problem is contained but we have to take the fight individually. One of the ways is by knowing your HIV status.
Testing can be done at any hospital or clinic as voluntary testing or as health provider initiated testing and in your home through the newly introduced home based testing done by trained health workers at the comfort of your home.
HIV testing is done by rapid methods and you get your results as you wait. The test is done using only a drop of blood and it takes 15 minutes to run. The heath worker has been trained to give counseling before the test is done (pre-test counseling) and after the test (post-test counseling).
Testing is advocated for all individuals, whether single or married. Many Kenyans have used marriage as an excuse to avoid HIV testing. At this time, it is vital for all to know their status in order to come together in the fight against HIV. This has especially been emphasized by the ever increasing numbers of discordant couples. This is a case whereby one person is found to be negative and their partner is positive. This has been the subject of debate and is still under study. Even in these cases, the measures to ensure that one’s partner is not infected can be instituted.
The pre-test counseling is done to asses your HIV risk and various questions are asked about your past history that would have made you at risk for HIV infection and your knowledge on HIV. The post test counseling depends on the results.
If one is found to be HIV negative, advice is given on how to live so that you remain negative. The prevention strategies include
- Abstinence from sex,
- Being faithful to one sexual partner and
- Using condoms when having sex.
Voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) has gained popularity in the recent past. VMMC comes as a package including HIV testing and counseling, behavioral change communication, reduction of risky behaviour, condom promotion and distribution and male circumcision performed under local anaesthesia.
Studies done in Kenya and other African countries have shown the preventive effects of male circumcision and hence the drive to encourage male circumcision in the country especially in the communities that do not practice male circumcision.
If one is found to be positive for HIV when tested advice is given on positive living, how you can prevent spreading the infection to other people and how you can prevent getting infected by another strain of HIV. One is referred to a care and treatment facility where various tests are done and if needed antiretroviral drugs given.
Referral is also given to various support groups where one interacts with others who are HIV positive and they can share experiences. All the testing and treatment services are free in all public health facilities and at subsidized rates in some private health facilities.
Another very important issue in the fight against HIV is the prevention of Mother to Child transmission (PMTCT) in and after pregnancy. All pregnant women should have their status confirmed in order to ensure that the child is not at risk or that risk is reduced. The measures of PMTCT have greatly reduced the numbers of children born to HIV mothers who turn out infected. Recently the government launched a new strategy towards elimination of mother to child transmission (EMTCT) by 2015. This strategy not only focuses on preventing transmission of HIV to the child but also keeping the mother alive.
It is important to know your HIV status. If negative, reduce risky behavior and try to prevent getting infected. If positive, reduce risky behavior and prevent transmission of the infection to others. Through this individual measures we are able to achieve an important goal in the spread of this disease and reduction in the new cases of HIV infection.