YIMAS FIRST HIV TEST

By Yima Nalley 4 years ago20 Comments

‘Hello?’

‘Yes?’

‘Nurse it’s me, the lady who did an HIV test this afternoon. I’m calling about the result…Hello nurse can you hear me?’

‘Oh, were you the one who called the other time? My dear your test result…’ and the line cut again compounding my exasperation. It was my third call to the diagnostic center.

I’ll get back to this conversation but I had my first HIV test four years ago at a diagnostic center in Port Harcourt, Southern Nigeria. I had paid a visit to a gynecologist for a burning sensation in my bowel. The doctor recommended a few tests and inquired about my last HIV test.

I am a part of the population in Africa which doesn’t undertake periodic HIV tests.

‘A number of studies conducted in Africa have also investigated barriers to testing…These African studies offer most direct evidence that the ‘fear factor’ operates as disincentive to test, on a peer group as well as an individual level’- aidsmap.com

It’s not the fear factor that dissuades me from regular HIV testing. It’s just not a part of my routine especially as I have enjoyed really good health for most of my life. This is aside infrequent bouts of malaria. It still doesn’t explain why as enlightened as I imagine myself, I had never tested for HIV before my visit to the gynecologist. Anyway, I informed the doctor about this and without further inquiries, she scribbled HIV/AIDS on her note pad as one of the tests she required me to take.

This attitude towards regular HIV testing presents a key challenge for the fight against the spread of HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organisation states that lack of an HIV diagnosis is an obstacle to implementing its recommendation that everyone with HIV be offered Antiretroviral.  Yet, consider that stigmatising attitudes and discrimination towards HIV carriers is still evident in parts of Africa.

I remember walking into the diagnostic center, requesting for an HIV test, while a woman and two men who were making inquiries at the counter stole glances at me after I made payment for the test. I endured their stares as I ascended a flight of stairs to the second floor of the three storey building where a laboratory was located.

At the laboratory a nurse in a lab coat asked me to take a seat and proceeded to draw my blood with a fresh needle. I asked when the test result would be available and she said it was her lunch break already; I would have to wait for another hour or so. I told her I couldn’t wait that long and asked if I could pick the result the next day. She said yes.

On my way out of the premises, I asked the lady at the reception if I could call in later in the day for my test result and she gave me a contact line. Why couldn’t I wait till the next day and pick the result on my way back from work? It must be because the human mind has a will of its own. No, I didn’t think the result would be positive and not by any sense of religiosity that causes some Nigerians to declare ‘God forbid, it’s not my portion’ about any unfavourable development. A former colleague once told me that HIV can’t kill her even if she tests positive, but those few minutes before a test result is made known are fatal. I know a few folks who can relate to this.

However, for me, it wasn’t about anxiety. I was just curious; it was after all my first HIV test and I wasn’t much acquainted with HIV self testing kits. If I had been, it would have made a whole lot of difference and I probably wouldn’t be writing about the experience at length.

‘The first global consultation on self-testing was convened by WHO and its partners in 2013, and this led to the publication of WHO’s self-testing guidelines in 2016. To date, 59 countries have developed national policies on self-testing, with another 53 countries actively working on the issue. In the African region, 17 countries have authorized the use of HIV self-testing.’ -World Health Organisation regional office for Africa.

An hour or so later I dialled the Diagnostic center.

‘Hello and welcome to….’ said the voice at the other end.

‘Yes, yes. I did a HIV test today and couldn’t pick the result immediately. Could you please connect me to your lab?’

‘Hold on please’. I waited for some seconds and the line cut. I dialled again.

‘Hello and welcome…’’

‘Please you just spoke with me…my HIV test result… your lab’.

‘Oh, the line cut earlier, hold on again madam’ said the female voice at the other end. A few seconds later another voice came on. It was the lab attendant’s.

‘Hello?’ She said.

‘Nurse it’s me, the lady who did an HIV test this afternoon. I’m calling about the result…Hello nurse can you hear me?’

‘Oh? My dear your test result…’ and the line cut yet again.

At this point, I was slightly irritated as it suddenly felt like a tease. I decided to get my mind off the test result and pick it up the next day after work.

‘Why wait till tomorrow, try again’ whispered my mind.

I dialled the diagnostic center again.

‘Hello!’ I almost snapped and without waiting to get a response, I spluttered, ‘I’m calling for the third time about my HIV test result, please let me speak with the nurse at the lab…the line keeps cutting….’ Finally, they got the lab attendant on the line and my conversation with her continued.

‘Aha madam, I thought you said you’ll pick up the result…?’ said the lab attendant.

‘I want it now!’ I snapped.

‘Well I checked a few minutes…’ she carried on till I couldn’t hear her voice because my phone network’s voice prompt suddenly informed me that I had one minute left on the call.

‘…and that’s the situation’ was the tail end of what I caught from the lab attendant after the automated voice prompt on my phone was done with its message.

‘I’m sorry what did you say?’ I quickly apologised.

‘About what my dear?’ she asked.

‘Listen I couldn’t hear you for a few seconds, what did you say the result was? I explained.

‘You couldn’t hear me? Why couldn’t you hear me? She inquired.

‘Listen I have a few seconds before this call cuts. Could you please tell me what the result is?’ I implored.

‘But I just told you, if you can’t hear me maybe…’ she went on.

There was some heightened tension as I waited for the voice prompt to tell me I had exhausted my call credit.

‘Hello…my dear are you still there? Listen, I said your result is…’ and the line cut; my call credit finally exhausted.

I picked the test result the next day and the outcome? Why don’t I make it a subject matter for another blog post. So much for curiosity but I’m learning to control my mind. I weigh the suggestions in my head before a decision. It is work in progress and I think I’m making progress. As an instance, two years ago I wrote my first blog post and it was difficult creating an easy flowing narrative. I never enjoyed reading my blog posts. My mind whispered to me back then, ‘You are a natural piece of broadcaster not a writer’.

I considered it and kept writing. It is several blog posts today inclusive of this experience about my first HIV test and I hope to God you’ve enjoyed it!

(Photo credit-consumer.healthday.com, theconversation.com, lazada.com.me)

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About

 Yima Nalley

  (4 articles)

Yima live! is an audio show examining globally relevant themes impacting our world and affecting the Africa region, especially Nigeria. The show aims to bring attention to salient global issues and key regional developments causing disruptions and shaping fast evolving twenty first century realities.

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