EDITORIAL COMMENT: HIV+ diagnosis is not a death sentence

hiv aids

CONSIDERABLE progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS with medical advances ensuring a better life for people diagnosed with the disease. HIV is really now a chronic disease alongside diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure and if managed well, is actually not life threatening.

Antiretroviral therapy — or ART — revolutionised HIV treatment in the past few decades with newer improvements, like one-pill-a-day drugs, making life with HIV easier and safer. As long as they manage it well, people who are HIV positive can expect a long, healthy life.

In Zimbabwe, the Government switched people living with HIV from the previous regime of three tablets a day to one tablet a day in 2015, reducing chances of patients defaulting in taking medication.

The new regime of a combination of Tenofovir/Lamivudine/Efavirenz (TLE) is less complicated than the old one of three tablets namely Tenofovir, Lovovidine and Nevirapine. Despite the advances and better treatment regimes, people diagnosed with HIV still find it hard to cope with the disease, making counselling a crucial part of the management of the condition.

Most people struggle to come to terms with their status and often retreat into shells and slip into depression. Others take the drastic route of ending their lives after failing to accept that they are HIV positive.

We have reported on cases of people committing suicide after testing positive and we feel society has failed them in this regard. When someone tests HIV+, they need the support of their families and friends so that they accept their condition and lead a stress-free life. It should be emphasised to them that testing positive for HIV is not a death sentence but the beginning of a life-long journey with the virus. This is why our hearts bleed when we report once again on another life cut short due to the failure by someone to accept their status. Elsewhere on these pages, we report on an incident where a man from Tsholotsho allegedly hanged himself after testing HIV positive. Doubt Ndlovu (47) of Mthonjeni area under Chief Gampu was found by his father hanging from a tree branch a few metres away from their home at around 7PM on Saturday.

A neighbour, only identified as Mr Tshuma, said Ndlovu hanged himself while his mother and children were in the kitchen preparing supper. He said when Ndlovu’s father noticed he had gone away from home for a while, when he was not feeling well, he went to look for him.

“He found him hanging from a tree branch a few metres away from their home. Ndlovu, who had lived in South Africa for more than 20 years, had since separated with the mother of his children. He returned home last month on medical grounds,” said Mr Tshuma.

“He didn’t leave a suicide note behind but for the past two weeks, he had been telling family and friends that he couldn’t swallow the fact that he had tested positive. He accused his ex-wife of infecting him with HIV.”

Mr Tshuma said Ndlovu tested for HIV at Nkunzi clinic and informed family and friends of his status, hinting he could not swallow the fact. We find his story heart-rending and feel Ndlovu could have been assisted to accept his status. Alarm bells should have immediately started ringing when he continuously expressed a desire to end his life after testing positive.

A trained counsellor could have been enlisted to explain what it means to live with the virus and the fact it’s not the end of the world. We agree with Chief Gampu that suicide is never a solution to life’s problems and members of the public need to seek counselling when they have problems.

“This man has only left more problems to his children and the rest of the family. It means even the counselling by clinic staff didn’t help. He however, should have talked this over with family, friends, church elders and other elders in the community,” said the chief.

“HIV status is no longer a death warrant. You can live a long healthy life with HIV provided you take your medication and follow the doctor’s instructions. I think the major factor nowadays is for one to accept their status and start living accordingly.”

Article Source: The Chronicle