3 reasons why Cameroonians should know their HIV status today
Mbembe Kiri! A fam there’s something that I’ve been meaning to talk about ever since I started this column: Status. I’m not referring to the relationship status, although that is what we’re going to address next week. I’m referring to your health status. In 2016, don’t leave anything to chance. Get tested and know your status.
According to the National AIDS Committee, there are 141 new cases of HIV reported everyday in Cameroon. In other words in Cameroon, 6 people get infected with HIV every hour, every day. The leading cause of the spread of HIV in Cameroon is people not knowing their status. Most people living with HIV don’t present any symptoms and appear healthy.In Cameroon, young women represent 7 in 10 of all youth ages 15-24 who are HIV+ Click To Tweet
To Know your HIV status serves you first
This topic is very dear to my heart as I have lost loved ones to several STIs including AIDS, and HPV that leads to cancer. Knowing your status is not just about you, it’s about the people you care about. There are several diseases out there that can be transmitted by contact (HPV), saliva (Herpes), or bodily fluids (HIV). Not knowing your status puts the people in your life at risk. Imagine if you’re infected and one time you get a cut with a razor, start bleeding and someone gets in contact with your blood by using said razor. Your sister, brother, mother gets infected. What then? (extreme example? good I want you to be scared) Not knowing puts other people at risk.
Beyond putting people at risk, you’re delaying treatment that can prevent you from dying. HIV is not a death sentence anymore like it was in the 1980s. Today you can manage and live with the disease. You can start a family and even have children. Know, so that you can save your own life.
Don’t leave it to chance
It is difficult for me to understand how people in 2016 are not asking their sexual partners about their health history. Herpes is the most common STI in the world. There’s no cure for it. You can contract it just by kissing someone. Although the disease has been proven to be benign, it is still an STI. HIV on the other hand can lead to AIDS which is deadly. It is important you understand the need to get tested before engaging in unprotected sex. I was going to suggest before having sex altogether, but let’s be honest here, Cameroonians don’t even like to talk about Malaria, let alone get tested for HIV. Yet today, I’m begging you to ask your sexual partner to get tested, better yet go get tested together.
The only reason I’m pushing for this is because of the nature of relationship statuses in Cameroon. Premier ou deuxième bureau, chat mort etc… With all of these different roles and position you need to know you partner is clean for your own safety. You could be the main girl/boyfriend and have great chemistry and indulge in unprotected sex. But what happen if he/she does the same thing with someone else without you knowing? I don’t care if you’re already married. Actually if you’re already married please get tested after you read this. Don’t leave it to chance. Know his/her status.
Knowing your status requires support
Regardless of if you’re sick or not, taking these tests are very emotional and difficult. Make sure to identify your support system. But most importantly, because these diseases are still a stigma in our African cultures, if you find out you’re infected, be wise and select your support system carefully. Outside of your sexual partner and your family not everyone needs to know until you’ve made peace with the outcome yourself and even when you share the outcome with a person, if you want to keep it a secret make sure your confidant understands the nature of your decision and respects your privacy.
Being infected can make you depressed, lead to thoughts of suicide or even revenge by contamination. Remember, your status is not a death sentence. Get started on treatment right away, and once you’ve got a handle on your new routine, reach out to a close friend or to your family for support and assistance. That friend or that family member will provide the support you need to carry you through the process. You’re never alone.