Finding all the positives in HIV-testing experience

Have I done the right thing or not?

This question came into my mind this week after an article I wrote last week about my experiences in the rooms of a medical practitioner in Roodepoort where I had gone for my yearly HIV test.

On Saturday my 9-year-old stepdaughter came home crying and told me that her friends had teased and scorned her, saying "we saw your father in the newspaper and (sic) he has HIV".

Earlier, following the appearance of the article in the newspaper, I was a guest on Xolani Gwala's SAfm morning talkshow.

Some callers on the show had expressed appreciation for the stand I had taken in highlighting the bad service people were subjected to on a daily basis.

Others hailed me for being brave to have taken the tests in the first place.

One caller questioned the frequency with which I have taken the tests - in all 13 in a space of seven years.

He called me a "serial tester" and went on to say I was like Jacob Zuma, going on a bonking spree and then going for tests. Zuma two years ago knowingly slept with an HIV-positive woman and went on to shower.

Another caller, who claimed to be a doctor, even suggested that I lay a charge with the police since taking blood from someone without their permission - this time without counselling - was tantamount to assault. He went on to apologise on behalf of the medical fraternity.

An inquisitive caller to the office wanted to know the results of my test. To answer that: the past 13 tests have all come back negative.

Another one told me about an HIV-Aids counsellor who preached daily about the importance of knowing your status but was herself "shit scared" to take the needle.

Back to my question: had I done the right thing? The answer is an emphatic, yes!

Yes, because I got South Africa talking on the show. Asikhulume. The topic of HIV-Aids was once more in the public domain and someone out there got empowered with knowledge. Knowledge, by the way, is power.

Yes, because I did contribute, in my own small way, in helping to end the stigma attached to the dreaded HIV-Aids.

Yes, because I did help other people open up and talk about some of the abuses meted out to them by those rendering services to them.

Yes, because I did get the children to talk about the subject, even to the extent of misinterpreting the article, thus upsetting my stepchild.

Sadly, their parents, who I believe bought the newspaper, never bothered to explain what was said in the article.

The disease knows no age, colour or social status.

We need to talk about it every time, everywhere and with everyone.

That way, half the battle will have been won.

l The writer is a sub-editor at Sowetan