Like many Africans, I grew up thinking that HIV was a death sentence. Our HIV education consisted of us being told that having HIV meant you’re promiscuous and will have a shorter lifespan. But times have changed now that we have access to effective HIV treatment.
The reality is that anyone can be exposed to HIV whether they’re in a relationship, married or single. This assumption that only single people who are having sex with numerous people get HIV is very wrong. Bottom line, everyone should know their status.
Getting tested for HIV is something we should all be doing. Maintaining good sexual health is a form of self-care. Testing is especially important when you consider the fact that 50% of all Black African heterosexual diagnoses in 2019 were diagnosed late.
Late diagnosis means that someone tested positive for HIV after the virus had already started to damage their immune system. Those who are diagnosed late often would have had HIV for between three to five years without knowing they had it as there are no obvious symptoms.
Due to the harmful stigma that’s associated with HIV in our community, some people may be scared to get tested and fearful of the results. Before the days of effective HIV treatment, the virus was looked at as a death sentence but thanks to medical advancements that isn’t the case anymore.
People on effective treatment cannot pass on HIV because their medication reduces the amount of virus in the body to ‘undetectable’ levels. This means the levels of HIV are so low that the virus cannot be passed on. This is called having an ‘undetectable viral load’.
Once on treatment, you can go on to live a long and healthy life. The sooner you get tested the better it is for your health as you can get on treatment before the virus causes any severe damage to your immune system.
Nowadays, you can test for HIV in the comfort of your own home. Nigerians and other Black Africans living in the UK can now order a free HIV self-sampling kit.
The kit arrives in discreet packaging with detailed instructions on how to use it. Once you’ve provided a small blood sample, you send it off and wait to receive your results. After a few days, you’ll receive your results via text. Yes, it really is that simple.
If your result comes back as positive or ‘reactive’, you will receive a call to offer you support and help you arrange further confirmatory testing at a clinic near you. Everyone in the UK is entitled to free HIV treatment, regardless of their immigration status.
It’s time we all play our part to put an end to HIV in our community. You can do that today by ordering an HIV test and knowing your status.
Order your HIV test