3 December 2012

Uganda: How to Ask Your Man for HIV Test

Prossy Nagawa, a business woman in Kireka, said when she had just completed her university studies, her boy friend wanted to have sex. Worst still, he wanted unprotected sex.

"One afternoon, when we were coming back from church, I decided to request him for an HIV test. He was happy and told me he had been afraid to ask me too.

The following Monday, we went for a test and we were both HIV negative.

The executive director for TASO, Christine Nabiryo Lwanga, says setting an approach about testing is important. The woman has to prepare first. She should get tips and skills for starting the dialogue with her husband.

Most men tend to shun going for HIV tests with their partners because of the fear of the unknown and other challenges that may arise if the results are positive.

"Most times men think their partners do not trust them. They feel they are accusing them of unfaithfulness, they also fear the outcome and being stigmatised if other people find out that they are positive.

"Others fear to lose their spouses and marriage, hence think of avoiding a test could help," Nabiryo says.

She adds that women sometimes choose to keep quiet to avoid arguments, violence and being thrown out of their marriages, which is a barrier for couples to knowing each other's status.

Molly Rwankore, a counsellor with TASO, says it is important that dialogue between couples on sexuality and HIV is practiced and asking your partner to go for the a is one of them. You can set a friendly approach to make this work," Rwankole advises.

"If partners are not sure of their HIV status, they might be reluctant to take the test. This is the reason that make couples shun taking the test together" Rwankole added.

Nabiryo says women who want to convince their husbands to go for an HIV test should do so without offending them.

While having a good time with your partner, use the same opportunity to ask for HIV test before sexual intercourse, she advises.

"Tell him it is the only way you can get to know each another's status, which could also prevent transmision of STDs. If the man loves you, he will accept to go for a test," Nabiryo says.

Sarah Buyinza, a counsellor at TASO, Mulago, says you can start by having a test alone, and thereafter choose which approach to use.

"Women should not disclose their results if they are positive, but if they are negative, then they can disclose. This encourages their men to go for a test too," Buyinza says.

She adds that in cases where dialogue is difficult, getting tested as a couple may be the best approach.

The woman can use external influence on her partner. They can involve counsellors or people who their partners respect, especially where there is communication gap.

This is a good approach because this removes fear that their partners do not trust them or feel they are being accused of unfaithfulness.

Buyinza says one can use community outreaches, which carry out counselling and testing because they can convince their partners to accompany them. The messages given by the counsellors can drive a resistant partner to go for HIV counselling and testing.

Rwankole says in some cases where a woman is attending antenatal clinic, she should ask her husband to accompany them to the hospital and here, the counsellors can use this as a way to counsel the couple about the importance of testing together.

She adds that this approach allows the counsellor to gauge specific support issues to be addressed before, during and after giving the HIV test results, in order to avoid violence and blame after wards.

Rwankole say counsellors have been trained to carry out couple counselling to prepare clients for the outcome and to offer on-going counselling support, depending on the HIV test results.

She also says women can ask for an HIV test on a day when their partners are in a good mood. They should explain to them why it is important to have rountine tests.

Be honest about any risky exposures you have had and ask your partner to be equally honest, she advises.

Nabiryo says in any relationship, testing for HIV is important and mandatory because knowing your status keeps and protects you and your partner.

"If you are both negative, you can keep yourselves safe and incase you test positive, you will seek medical care together" Nabiryo advises.

She recommends HIV screening as routine clinical care for all patients aged 13 to 64. She says one should have an HIV test during a medical check-up, just like any other tests, to ensure they are okay.

Those who know they have been exposed to risky factors should test more frequently. If you had unprotected sex with multiple or with a partner whose HIV status you did not know, you should also get tested.

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