Thursday, July 26, 2012

The HIV Test

Some years ago, a man from a village deep in Mbale began to notice that his scrotum was growing larger by the day. Rather than going to see a doctor, he left it at that which was quite a blunder. The scrotum grew so big that he could barely walk without having to lift his scrotum off the ground.
Eventually, he sought professional help and was told that he had a hydrocele testis which is an accumulation of clear fluid in the tunica vaginalis. A hydrocele causes a painless enlargement in the scrotum on the affected side and is thought to be due to the defective absorption of fluid secreted between the two layers of the tunica vaginalis.
He had surgery performed and at the end of the day, all was well. When it comes to health, most of us do not take our health seriously. We only seek out a doctor as a last resort thing.
The last time I had a full medical check-up was almost five years ago. Last week I had a bout of malaria and while with the doctor, he advised I get the full check up.
I was to be tested for everything from malaria, chest infections, kidneys, liver, HIV, TB – basically the works. On my previous HIV checks, there had never been a counselor present. The doctor just took a blood sample and an hour later I was given my results and that was that. I was on my way.
This time round, there was a counselor and who was counseling me after doctor had taken my blood sample. In a small room at the far end of the hospital – I presume the room was at the far end so people would not hear you scream when you were given a positive result, I sat down with Dr. and Counselor and it turned out to be a nerve racking experience.
Counselor wanted to know why I wanted an HIV test. She also wanted to know what I would do if the results were positive, how I would break the news to my family and how it would affect my life.
She also wanted to know if I was in a state of panic because I was about to find out the results. To be honest, when I consented to the HIV test, I was not in a state of panic because I had not put myself in a situation in which I might have contracted HIV.
However, I was now in a panic because of her line of questioning which was more on the negative side and not making me feel good at all. Her questions made me paranoid and freaked me out that I started having suicidal thoughts.
And the more that she made me feel paranoid, freaked me out and giving me suicidal thoughts, the more I thought she already knew my results and was trying to make me read in between the lines before the doctor finally rammed the death sentence home.
By the time the doctor held up the envelope that contained my results I had gone from a self assured man to a nervous wreck even though in my heart I knew I no cause for panic.
Tearing the envelope open she looked at the slip, then at me, and back at the slip after which she gave a sigh. “Mr. Bukumunhe, are you ready for the results” she asked?
I wanted to bark back at her that I was but that was until Counselor opened her trap and started freaking me out. “Well I have some good news for you. Your results came back negative” she added. Of course they would have come back negative so I wanted to tell her.
Asking around, I found that many people found the questioning from the counselors scary that most of them fled half through and put having an HIV test on the back burner.
Perhaps like the chap from Mbale who had the hydrocele, he might have actually seen a doctor, but the line of questioning that he got him all rattled that he fled.
After what I went through, I suspect that there are a good number of people who don’t know their HIV status and that they would want to know it but having to deal with a dubious line of questioning from the counselors has put them off. Perhaps TASO could look into it?

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