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Friday, July 16th, 2010 - 7 comments

Do you want to know your HIV status?

Some say it’s empowering to learn your HIV status and to get tested. Others feel it’s better not to know, because of all the issues HIV can raise. My name is Sydney Hushie and I have four questions for you.

As a young person, I am interested in seeing a situation where all young people know their HIV status and can openly declare their status without fear of discrimination and stigmatization. One sure way of achieving this is for all young people to do get tested. From my video, you will lean about my passion about HIV and Voluntary Counseling and Testing facilities available in health centres and youth centers.

I have been working on HIV since I was 11years. 14 years down the line, I believe HIV has taken a youthful face. As a young boy, I visited the Fevers Unit of the General hospital in Ghana (which is also responsible for people living with HIV) and I was amazed at the level of neglect and discrimination that people living with HIV face. I was motivated to use my media access (radio) to draw attention to this injustice and create a platform for young people to be a part of the campaign to stop HIV/AIDS related stigma.

I have four questions I’d like to ask you

Next week, from July 18 to July 23, a conference on HIV/AIDS will be hosted in Vienna. This conference will be attended by policy makers, people working in the field, and people living with HIV. I am writing this blog-post from Vienna. Even though you can’t participate physically, you can participate and have your say online.

  • Do you know your HIV status?
  • If not, would you like to know your HIV status?
  • What do you think are the three most important reasons why most young women and men do not know their HIV status in your country? (Is it that they do not think it is important? Are they embarrassed to get tested? Are there no services? Are services are expensive? Lack of confidentiality? Because they aren’t allowed to get tested?).
  • What is the one thing that should be done in your country to encourage young people to get tested for HIV?

During the conference, there will be an interactive discussion hosted by UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNFPA, and WHO entitled: “Right For You! Creating Game Changing Strategies for HIV and Young People.” Please leave a comment below and reply to the four questions. We want to know what issues, comments and questions young people have about HIV.

My opinion

I am inspired and believe that young people knowing our status will go along way to prevent the stigma we face.

I live in a small country on the West Coast of Africa; Ghana with a population of about 23 million. We currently have comparatively low prevalence standing at 1.9%. The prevalence has seen a gradual decline on the last three years from 3% in 2007 to the current rate. Ghana has a youthful population with over 50% below 35 years. Prevalence in Ghana is highest between 15- 49 years age group. Ghana has a National Commission on HIV which is the country’s coordinating body for the response in Ghana.

Many young people do not want to know their status mainly due to the fear of alienation by their friends, family and society. Think about a society where everyone knows his status and can freely talk about it. This is my motivation to want to encourage all young people to get tested. Fortunately, there are testing centres dotted around our communities and there are quick testing kits and free counseling in many youth centres and hospitals. Testing for HIV also gives our governments an idea about the numbers of people needing Anti Retroviral Therapy and adequately plan for them. Civil society will also be able to effectively advocate for increased access to ART and counseling and support services.

Leave comment, have your say

I hope you will join this discussion. A panel of experts will be answering some of the best responses and comments. They include Dr. Doug Kirby, an HIV researcher and author of The International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education and Darlington Muyambwa, a youth activist and programme manager of an organization providing information on HIV to students in Zimbabwe.

It’s an exciting way to interact with the international HIV/AIDS community, so join the Conversation! Your comments will also be part of a survey on HIV prevention. Let us know what you think about these important questions related to condoms by commenting on this blog-post

Did you miss the other video-blogs from the Conversation-series on Youth and HIV? You can read them here:

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The views expressed in this blog-post are solely those of the author.

Comments (7)

CanNurse
Friday 16th July, 2010, 6:00pm

* Do you know your HIV status? - YES

* What do you think are the three most important reasons why most young women and men do not know their HIV status in your country?
1. Ignorance about the importance of EVERYONE being tested. 2. Services not widely advertised & easily available 3. They are embarrassed to get tested.

* What is the one thing that should be done in your country to encourage young people to get tested for HIV?
Increased Gov. Funding for massive education and information campaign targeting youth & all vulnerable populations, as well as more testing clinics.

Joan Crow-Epps
Friday 16th July, 2010, 7:09pm

•Do you know your HIV status?
Yes

•What do you think are the three most important reasons why most young women and men do not know their HIV status in your country?
They assume they have not been exposed, they are embarrassed to be tested, they are not aware the testing is confidential

•What is the one thing that should be done in your country to encourage young people to get tested for HIV?
Do free mass screenings at schools to make it easy for lots of people to get tested at once - this would remove stigma and embarrassment, find people even if they do not believe they have been exposed, and solve the where/how/expense problem.

Kamulegeya David
Sunday 18th July, 2010, 11:37am

I am interested in responding on this theme. first of all I would like to know my HIV status to enable me have a peace of mind and confidence to ma health status. personally I know my HIV status and i understand the importance of testing. it is not a bad thing to have a free voluntary HIV test. people who fear to have a test are those who do not value their life and they are not sure of who they are.
I would advocate for a free HIV/AIDs Counseling and Testing as a mandatory to all young people to be safe from the monster.

Chris Harding
Wednesday 21st July, 2010, 11:42pm

• Do you want to know your HIV Status?

As an educated male, I believe my knowledge and understanding of HIV is quite important, which includes a regular test when engaging in sexual activity.

• If not, would you like to know your HIV status?

I know my status.

• What do you think are the three most important reasons why most young women and men do not know there HIV status in your country?

Interestingly, many women in these cultures and ethnicities are "dissatisfied" with the performance of their lover, which indicates an inability to communicate with each other about heterosexual relationships. In other words, some cultures and ethnicities have difficulty communicating about sexual topics that many would consider "normal" and write about if they became more liberal.

On many occasions, many of the same dissatisfied women will seek sex with another, and, if they are married, engage in an adulterous affair. The same can be said for the men as well. For many, the latter interaction is considered "risky" and increases the "satisfaction" of the sexual encounter. Some of these encounters may be with the same sex. As we know, the "statistics" of women reporting "experimentation" with women is quite high. Many have suggested high statistics for men as well.

As we become older, we, at times, desire a return to our younger days. Some may reminisce about their days of experimentation as well and decide to "experiment" one more time. On the other hand, some may continue a sexual relationship with a "friend" who has outside sexual relationships and introduces risks. In every case, a lack of honest discussion, ignorance, and a desire for satisfaction usually leads to chance encounters and increased risks.

The men and women in our society usually follow instead of leading. As such, most are afraid to discuss difficult topics, and HIV is one such topic.

Like many situations, they believe a lack of discussion allows one to remain appropriately ignorant without placing fault.

• What is the one thing that should be done in your country to encourage young people to get tested for HIV?

Mothers and fathers with a willingness to discuss sexual activity, and children who have a balance of intellectual and sexual curiosity, which I believe describes most children. Usually, the "environmental" factors trump the genetic factors in these cases.

A side note:

As a male who has only had sex with women but has considered sexual relations with men and has homosexual tendencies, I would like to provide the following journal article. I believe it adequately describes the "dangers" of risky and "on the down low" sexual behavior that happens more often than people want to admit. Why? Because most "men" are "studs"!!! In truth, most men and women associate "sports" with "studs", and the article clearly indicates that the dominant male figure in sports also engages in "on the down low" activity!

1. Sandfort, Theo G.M; Dodge, Brian. ...And Then There was the Down Low": Introduction to Black and Latino Male Bisexualities. Arch Sex Behav[online].2008.vol.37(5), pp.675-682. Available from: Entrez, The Life Sciences Search Engine. Search Entrez.

Steph
Monday 2nd August, 2010, 10:17am

* Do you know your HIV status?
Yes.
* What do you think are the three most important reasons why most young women and men do not know their HIV status in your country? (Is it that they do not think it is important? Are they embarrassed to get tested? Are there no services? Are services are expensive? Lack of confidentiality? Because they aren’t allowed to get tested?).
1. They think there is only a random chance of them contracting HIV (unless they are gay or an injecting drug user, for example)
2. It is not seen as a pressing issue in Australia compared to other STDs like chlamidia.
3. There is not a big push to get tested in Australia

* What is the one thing that should be done in your country to encourage young people to get tested for HIV?
Doctors should encourage patients to get tested (I have had a doctor tell me that I shouldn't even bother getting tested because there it is no unlikely that I would have it, and he has never had someone test positive in his whole career)

NJED
Thursday 16th December, 2010, 1:56am

1. Do you know your HIV status?
No, I don't

2.If not, would you like to know your HIV status?
Yes, I hope I can gather the courage, I really need to do that.

3.What do you think are the three most important reasons why most young women and men do not know their HIV status in your country? (a)for most of us, and probably true for most religious communities, AIDS is seen as a great sin, a great embarrassment to you,your family and your community.
(b)I know people living with HIV, who loose hope again and again, many of us we are not prepared to loose the one thing we cling to, and that is, hope of a better life in Africa, hope to me illuminates life and soul, without it you are as good as dead.
(c)When engaging is sexual act, most use condoms and this becomes a comfort zone, that you indeed cannot get this infection.
(d) For me, I cannot stand the idea that I will never marry my girlfriend and get healthy kids

4. What is the one thing that should be done in your country to encourage young people to get tested for HIV?

(a)HIV is mainly taught in universities, long after young people have started engaging in sex, I believe it should be made a must in secondary and primary schools (b) Let it be made a family/religion/basic unit of socializing thing , such that government can pray a greater role in encouraging families/basic social units to go for test together and encouraging forgiveness and unreserved support for each other. (c)Encourage self-test as a first step, this would make most of us go for a second testing to confirm, in line with this look for betters/innovative ways of counseling

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Guest Editor

Sydney Hushie

About

Sydney Hushie (25 ) is the Programmes Coordinator of the South Secretariat of the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS based in Accra Ghana. Sydney is responsible for the 12 Regional Focal Points of the GYCA. He is also responsible for projects of the Coalition in Africa, Asia and South America. He has also been a radio and TV presenter on a number shows targeted at young people’s involvement in development. Sydney recently joined a team of young people in Oslo-Norway at the Young Leaders Summit organized by the Crown Princess of Norway and UNAIDS. Sydney has also in the past worked with the UNFPA, UNICEF, Plan International UNAIDS in Ghana.

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