HIV sero- discordance is not a crime

By Florence Awor

The New Vision on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, ran an article about a woman who killed her 60-year-old HIV – positive husband that wished to be intimate with her. The incident could have been avoided if the couple had received awareness about HIV sero-discordance and been part of a peer support program in their community.

HIV sero-discordance is where one partner is HIV-infected and the other is not. This is a common phenomenon among married and cohabiting couples. Discordant couples represent a critical most at-risk group since the HIV negative partner is at high risk of getting HIV.

According to the Ministry of Health, Uganda has registered 79355 discordant couples in the last five years. Most people enter into relationships with one partner already HIV infected. Also due to risky behaviors among married couples, even those who previously tested negative, one partner can turn HIV positive leading to HIV sero-discordance. Such couples should seek counseling support to make informed decisions. After testing, the couples need to receive their test results together and given information on how to live in a discordant relationship.  Regular checkups and testing are good for healthy relationships.

HIV sero-discordant couples should know that they can stay together for long without the negative partner getting infected. As long as the positive partner in the relationship is on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), with good adherence and suppressed viral load. This mitigates the chances of transmitting HIV to the negative partner.

Newly diagnosed HIV sero-discordant couples are encouraged to start and take their medication on time. While the positive partner is started on medication, the negative partner is started on pre-exposure drugs; these drugs are specifically given to the HIV negative partner for six months or until the positive partner’s viral load is suppressed to prevent transmission to the negative partner.

Counseling offers risk reduction trainings that protect transmission to the negative partner and children in the event of pregnancy. Linking up with discordant couple forums also supports the management of such relationships and adherence for the couples. Open communication in relationships to bridge knowledge gaps, attend counseling sessions, and accept medical care follow-ups is equally of benefit.

The writer is a Counselor at Reach Out Mbuya Parish HIV/AIDS Initiative

As published in The NewVision on Thursday, January 30, 2020

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