With new breakthrough in the technologies in medicine, it has been made easy for everyone of us to know our HIV status with a simple test that can be taken in the privacy of our homes.
To test yourself for HIV these days means that you and other people use oral fluid or blood-finger-pricks to discover their status in a private and convenient setting. Results are ready within 20 minutes or less, while some tests only require a swab of saliva and your result is ready after 30 minutes.
Due to the stigma associated with the viral disease. Most people are scared to take the test in laboratories or health centres where they can run into any one they know.
Dr. Kunle Adetayo, a consultant haematologist, says being able to test yourself makes it easier to accept the result.
The doctor also revealed that despite the counseling given to patients before testing, having someone else disclose their results is often a blow that they may not recover from.
â€œI would rather be the first to know that I am HIV positive or not. Itâ€™s a diagnosis most people would prefer to know.Â Then you can quietly walk into a clinic and get registered for treatment, knowing you have scaled the first hurdle.
â€œSelf-testing will also increase the population of people who know their HIV status because believe it or not, more than half of those infected do not know and they will keep transmitting it,â€ he says.
According to Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, new statistics show that over 40 per cent of those infected with HIV are unaware of their status.
Chan said, â€œMillions of people with HIV are still missing out on life-saving treatment, which can also prevent HIV transmission to others.
â€œHIV self-testing should open the door for many more people to know their HIV status and find out how to get treatment and access prevention services.â€
Doctors agree that over 90 million Nigerians know that HIV/AIDS exists and kills when not detected early, and his has not provoked them to get tested.
Federal Ministry of Health in a report estimates that more than 70 per cent of Nigerian population do not know their HIV/AIDS status.
Dr. Zizi Egbuwoku- Imatorbhebe, a public health physician, said that knowing oneâ€™s HIV status saves rather than kills.
She explained HIVÂ as a virus that attacks the immune system, the bodyâ€™s natural defense system, explains that the earlier one gets tested, the sooner one can access treatment and information to help manage the condition and delay the onset of AIDS(the advanced stages of the infection), should one test positive for the disease.
She adds, â€œWe canâ€™t overstate the importance of testing for HIV to ensure an early diagnosis. People respond better to treatment when they are diagnosed at an earlier stage of the disease.
â€œKnowing your HIV status is the key to both effective treatment and to preventing onward transmission. HIV, when not treated, quickly advances to AIDS. Make no mistake about it, AIDS kills because the immune system would be too weak to resist infection by then.â€
Imatorbhebe also explained that by not knowing oneâ€™s status, one puts oneâ€™s spouse, siblings, parents and children at risk of getting infected.
Pointing out that HIV can be transmitted in many ways, which include blood-blood contact like blood transfusion, fluid-fluid contact such as vaginal, oral sex, anal sex and blood transfusion, it is possible to infect others without knowing it.
Using an infected pregnant woman as an example, she can pass HIV to her baby or babies during pregnancy, during delivery and through breast feeding if she does not know she is infected.
However, if a pregnant woman tests positive for HIV, appropriate treatment can reduce the risk of infecting the baby. Experts state that HIV-positive women have about a one-in-four chance of infecting their baby during pregnancy or birth but getting treatment before child birth can reduce this figure to about one in 12.
Imatorhebe says, â€œYou donâ€™t have to have had sex before you contract HIV. Babies have got it from their parents who did not know that they had it. Siblings have contracted it from each other through blood contact without knowing.
â€œBut if you find out you are infected, you can make sure that you protect your sex partner from becoming infected. If more people know their HIV status and use the knowledge to act responsibly, the pandemic can be better controlled.â€
It is however important to know that the Health professionals and counsellors, who conduct and discuss the test with you, must, by law, keep the results strictly confidential.
To know your HIV status has however been made as easy as walking to a pharmacy nearest to you, ask for a self-test kit and do the needful, without a second or third party.