The 411 of ARVs
By Athandiwe Ntshinga
Athandiwe Ntshinga gives us the full run down on HIV, ARVs and testing in this insightful piece.
Going to test for HIV can be very scary. Like many illnesses, the thought of not being “healthy” leaves us on edge – more so, when there are possibilities of the illness never going away, or the illness being fatal. With HIV/AIDS, however, there are added layers that make the concept of contracting it or being open about being HIV positive that much more nerve-wracking.
We must always remember that whether you or someone you know are HIV+ you can still stay healthy by taking ARVs correctly and consistently.
Antiretroviral tablets, commonly known as ARVs, are tablets taken once someone finds out they are HIV+. Simply put, these tablets help with maintaining your CD4 count, to make sure your immune system stays tough and keeps your body going. It’s essential that you or anyone you know with HIV takes these consistently to preserve a high quality of life. This is why it’s important to be open and honest about your HIV status across the board. Here are a few ways to do this:
Testing for HIV
It all begins here. Whether you’re sexually active or not, you have to make sure you’re fully aware of your HIV status. To most people’s surprise, sex isn’t the only way you can contract HIV/AIDS. Take for instance, MTV Shuga character, Arabeng, who is not sexually active but contracted HIV during birth from her mother who was HIV+. Make it a point to explore the various ways HIV can be contracted, and test once every three months and know your status.
If you are a guardian of someone with HIV, be honest
#MTVShugaDS how could they hide Arabeng's status from her
— Lucky (@chief_mabena) March 12, 2019
If you’re responsible for a minor or someone who isn’t aware that they are HIV+ and you’re administering the intake of their ARVs, be honest. The person deserves to know their status so they can eventually take it upon themselves to stay healthy. Arabeng’s family has known she was HIV+ for many years, but instead of being honest, they have been telling her she’s taking vitamins. It’s a shock to find out you’re HIV+; assist with weaning the process of such a huge life element and the lifestyle changes that come with it.
If you test HIV+, tell anyone you have been sexually active with recently
— MTV Shuga: Down South (@MTVShugaDS) March 12, 2019
Kwanele’s ex-girlfriend (Shushu) tested positive and immediately shared the news with him. While this may be extremely scary for all parties involved, testing and getting on ARVs, if need be, must happen as soon as possible. Even if your relationship ended on bad terms, find the strength to share your status with your ex or former sexual partners so you can all remain healthy.
It is not your right to expose someone for taking ARVs
No Bongi, you are NOT just “the girl with HIV”. You are:
Bongi who likes to sing
Bongi who likes bacon with pineapple.
Your status does not define her identity. #MTVShugaDS 🙅🏾♂️
— MTV Shuga: Down South (@MTVShugaDS) March 26, 2019
The nurse at the clinic was unbelievably rude about Bongi going to fetch her ARVs, shouting out what she had come for and being unapologetic about it. If you are announcing someone’s use of ARVs without their consent or to shame them, take a step back, rather, and commend them for taking care of their health. More so, respect their privacy!
Share your status with friends and potential partners
Your ARVs are part of your life once you test positive, and they need to be taken without fail. Bongi is considering the world of dating again, and the truth is, she may need to take them in in the presence of her potential partner too. Opening up is uncomfortable. People can be judgmental, but if they truly care about you, they’ll understand that your health comes first. In fact, they might even help you remember to take them when you’re busy or stressed. If not, then they just weren’t meant to be a part of your life.
If you, or anyone you know, is consistently taking their ARVs, then that is great!! Your life doesn’t end when you test HIV+, and when you’re able to maintain your health or help someone do this, a chance at furthering life is within reach.
If you or anyone you know is affected by any of the above and needs someone to speak to, send a Please Call Me to Love Life 083 323 1023.