HIV/AIDS: What’s love got to do?
From the famous music maestro, Tina Turner’s love song titled, 'What's Love Got To Do With It' resonates the thoughts that love should not be used for the wrong reasons.
Couples or partners who are serodiscordant can use protection when having sex without passing HIV on.
A serodiscordant couple or a serodifferent couple is when one partner is HIV-negative and the other is HIV-positive.
Serodiscordance destabilizes couples as the HIV-negative partner reacts with anger, fear, and sadness to the implication of infidelity represented by HIV infection.
A "discordance dilemma" ensues, as the desire to avoid acquiring HIV and the advantages of preserving the relationship become competing priorities.
Here, Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, PrEP, is seen as a solution-a means of safeguarding health without ending the relationship.
“I ended my marriage in 2008 as soon as I tested positive to HIV. About a couple of years after we broke up, I heard that my husband fell ill and had passed away. Before he died, I had left Lagos for Ilorin where I received the message of his death. The cause was not disclosed. Could it have been related to HIV/AIDS? From what I knew about him, it’s a possibility.
"I was a virgin until I met and married my husband. He was my first and only sex partner. He Loves me, yet infected me with HIV. After five years of nuptial bliss, I feel empty."
The above, were statements made by Princess Folashade Olakunle whose love story turned sour, after being infected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, by her husband, a royal father whose love she ones said was her all.
Recounting, Folashade said, "I got married in my mid 30’s, I was not sexually adventurous before I got married. Although, I had a few boyfriends while in school and afterwards, I never had sex with any of them. I was a virgin until I met and married my husband. He was my first and only sex partner.
"I had never gone for surgery or had blood transfusion or been at risk of any of the other modes of HIV transmission. I realized my husband had never disclosed his HIV status. He had never even talked about it. He probably didn’t know his status, yet had two other wives, so it was quite logical to assume the HIV infection must have come from him."
Shade, as fondly called, hardly knew that her marital bliss would be short-lived barely after five years of nuptial knots.
Another encounter was when Journalists for Prevention of Mother-To Child Transmission of HIV In Nigeria, JAPIN, Lagos, visited the Heart to Heart Unit of the Badagry General Hospital Lagos met with a 27 year old Andrew Rasheedi, who told the journalists of having two sexual partners who are unaware of his HIV status.
Though disclosing ones HIV status is voluntary, however, to reduce the risk of transmission, it is expected that sexual partners are aware of their status.
Rasheedi said, "I have two girlfriends and they are not aware of my status. I do have sexual intercourse with them. I don't want to reveal my status."
Narrating how his HIV status was revealed, he said, "it started when I fell ill. I was sick so I went to the hospital to test for malaria, typhoid and later tested for HIV. I was told by the doctor that I have malaria, typhoid and HIV. I couldn't collect the test result because I felt so dejected and felt like dying. The doctor counseled me and ask that I go to the General Hospital to run a confirmation test which also came out positive."
When asked if his parents and siblings are aware of his status, he said, "my father is not aware of my status. I told my mother about and she was very sad but later my sister had to encourage her."
Folashade and Rasheedi are among the estimated of 1.9 million people living with HIV in Nigeria which is according to the recent Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey, NAIIS.
Condemning the act of using love in disguise to transmit HIV, the South West Regional Coordinator, Network of People Living With HIV In Nigeria, NEPWHAN, Lagos, Ms Abiola Ajani in an interview, said "though we all have our right to disclose our status or not. It is morally wrong to infect a partner knowingly. Now, there is Partner Notification Services, (PNS) practice of notifying the sexual partners of a person, known as the "index case", who has been newly diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection that they may have been exposed to the infection. It is a kind of contact tracing and is considered a partner service."
Ajani further explained that, "the facility gets details of the sexual partners of the HIV positive client without suspicion, then goes to the community where the sexual partner is located, do a random testing to avoid suspicion, whether the test result is positive or negative, the partner is informed of the importance of HIV testing with one’s sexual partner.
"The partners are then offered HIV testing and, following their results, linked to prevention services (if negative) or treatment (if positive)."
She however encouraged PLWH to be as honest as possible to their sexual partners about their status adding that it is beneficial to both partners.
In her views, the Lagos state Manager, Society for Family Health, Funke Adewoyin, is of the opinion that love has nothing to do with infecting a sexual partner with HIV when in full knowledge of his status.
She said, "a partner not disclosing his status to barbaric and wicked. What makes him think that the girls he is having unprotected sex with are not HIV positive? That means, he is getting more of the virus into his system thereby killing his immune system.
"Even if you are HIV positive and living healthy, the individual needs to know that, whatever sexual intercourse he is having needs to be protected because of your partner especially, if they are not aware.
"If currently on treatment, it actually reduces the level of vulnerability of the spouse if you must have unprotected sex with them."
Adewoyin added that SFH as part of its job conduct HIV counselling as well as follow up even when the person is exposed to the treatment, reminding the person to; remain healthy, adhere to drugs in order to have HIV negative baby.
She said when an HIV positive person engages in unprotected sexual intercourse, there is high exposure to hepatitis, tuberculosis as the immune system is low and open to so many infections.
While Nigeria is making progress towards achieving zero HIV society by 2030, there is need to eradicate stigma and discrimination of PLWHA as well as encourage disclosure to ones sexual partners to limit spread.
To keep the efforts towards HIV eradication, Dr. Ogbonna Amanze, Head of Research Unit NACA, said with the right leadership in place and support of the international donors with increasing domestic funds, the country will reach its set targets.
Amanze stated that the results of the Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey, NAIIS, revealed that in 2017, 3.1 million (2.1 – 4.4) people were living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria while 210,000 (110,000 – 320,000) new HIV infections and 150,000 (86,000 – 230,000) AIDS related deaths were recorded.
"The new trend is that there is a decline in the number of people with HIV/AIDS. Current national HIV prevalence is 1.4 per cent amongst adult between ages 15-49 years with a total estimate of 1.9 million people living with HIV in Nigeria.
"While prevalence rate among female is 1.9 percent among ages 30 -39 years and it is significantly higher than 0.9 percent for the male between the ages of 50-54 years. HIV incidence is 8.0 percent that is 10,000 persons across both genders and ages group while viral load suppression is 42.3 percent between."
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