Dating and testing for HIV

Condoms are a significant factor for the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

They are also effective for preventing unintended pregnancies.

Should trust stop couples from using protection?

In a recent social media debate, ‘on why couples do not test for HIV first before engaging in unprotected sex’, most people wondered why couples assume that if they date for a certain period, it becomes alright not to use a condom even without first going for an HIV test.

“Who told you that Aids goes away after dating for a couple of months?” wondered one user.

Pakachere Institute of Health and Development Communications executive director Simon Sikwese noted that as people develop intimacy, they also develop trust.

He said the trust that develops makes them less suspicious that their partner could be HIV-positive; hence can forgo condom use.

“This is dangerous because one can have the virus without it affecting their immune system. The person may look healthy, but can still transmit the virus. This is one reason people in stable relationships are infecting each other.

People must always be wary of where their partner is coming from and also consider how many other sexual partners they have developed trust with, to the extent of having unprotected sex,” explained Sikwese.

He also cautioned couples to always remember that any unprotected sex with a partner whose status they are not sure of puts them at risk of HIV infection however trusted they can be.

Peer educator and counsellor Barbara Mwandira said she advises couples to use condoms.

However, she notes that it was becoming a habit for couples to discard condoms even after counselling.

“I would ask such couples if their life is worth the value of sex. Can they have sex when their body is unhealthy? Couples need to individually assess their lives and practise positive living.

They need to live a healthy and non-risky life so that they and their partners are protected,” she pointed out.

A recent study by the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with National Aids Commission (NAC), and the World Bank found that more than 90 percent of new infections are among those who were previously considered to be at low risk, such as couples and partners in stable sexual relationships.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said his ministry, through the National Condom Strategy 2015-2020, has established outlets for male and female condoms to ensure easy access for safe sex.

“Getting tested for HIV before accessing condoms is another service the ministry provides. HIV testing is not mandatory, but health workers can initiate the need for a patient or client to get tested during a visit to health facilities,” said Malango on Wednesday. n

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