How To Avoid HIV: Once Upon A Lab Test

By Ikenga Chronicles July 2, 2018

— Uche Anyanwagu

Nne was always falling sick, and was in the habit of treating malaria every two weeks. She does this without any examination or investigation.

Once any little symptom shows up, she prepares a cocktail of medicines and dishes it out to her well-deserved sick body as a three-course meal.

Nne is a pharmacist. She graduated from one of the best universities in the country. She soars like the eagle she is the best description of that sobriquet “Beauty and Brains”.

She is happily married to one of the finest gentlemen of his generation. She has lovely children too but you can’t tell this by looking at her.

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So one day she decided to do a full blood work. The lab attendant advised her to grab the opportunity of their free HIV test to do one. She obliged.

She later told me; “This was how my addiction for blood test started oh!”

So, every year Nne goes to this lab for their “oshoo free” HIV test. This was neither because of the risk her work as a pharmacist poses, nor any untoward action from her or her partner, but mostly because of the intriguing pre-test counselling she gets.

During her next visit, she met the lab attendant who told her everything about prevention. Since they never knew she’s a healthcare provider, she would alway act dumb as they counsel.

“As long as you use condoms you are safe especially when you are not keeping one partner,” advised the attendant.

Nne couldn’t keep her cool, so, in feigned innocence, she asked: “So you mean if I sleep with other people, I should use condom but should have one person I should not sleep with condom. Did I get you right?”

The attendant nodded and went on to expatiate; “You can choose one person you will not sleep with, with condoms, then others you can sleep with, with condoms.”

Nne gently protested that such idea kills and cremates the definition and purpose of avoiding multiple sexual partners in HIV prevention strategies.

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The lady was unperturbed and stood her ground. Nne did the test, took her result a few hours later and went home.

A year later, she returned for another test. She was still dealing with the blow of the first when she met Sister Deepa–a very pretty middle-aged Asian lady.

The counselling that day came in a different gear, speed and direction. In Nne’s own words: “Sister Deepa taught us during counseling that the only way to avoid HIV is by NOT having sex at all and to have sex with your married spouse, ONLY when you want to have babies.”

As if the host of angels were hovering round the lab in praise that day, one of the attendees mistakenly asked Sister Deepa about the use of condoms.

She immediately cut her short, and warned her that “That will not only give you HIV but send you to hellfire.”

Nne was shocked at her response and immediately made her way to see her supervisor. It was needful that he gives his staff the right orientation so that personal beliefs do not clash with professionalism and professional standards.

“Oga, ” she began, “I don’t think it’s fair for your staff to mislead the public they are meant to direct and inform. Why won’t they counsel people on constant use of condom? Constant being the keyword here, not selective.”

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He took a stern gaze at Nne but she continued unperturbed.

“Last year, that was what we were told. How can I not use condom for my boo, knowing that my boo may have a boo he does the same with? Why can’t you advise us to simply avoid keeping multiple sexual partners?”

When her ranting was over, the supervisor, told her that they can just choose to preach only abstinence because they are talking to adults. We don’t care much about those who can’t abstain.

Nne stubbornly stuck to her views.

“Oga, you have yet to answer me why unmarried girls are being advised to use condoms with some people and not some.”

To her surprise, Oga now told her that they don’t PREACH the use of condoms because the “culture” tests they run here show that people have loads of infection.

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In his words, “It’s better for my staff to advise them (even the married ones, unless it was time to want to make babies) to stop having sex completely as part of our contribution to the system so as to stop the spread of not just HIV but other numerous infections.They would all go to hell when they do such.”

Nne, for the first time in two years, felt she was in the counselling room or pastor’s office of a church. As she peeped through the window, the signpost largely standing outside the building still read “XYZ Laboratory Services”.

Completely conquered, she managed to ask Oga about blood transfusions, sharing of sharp objects, etc as other means of the spread of HIV. “Why don’t you people emphasise those means too?”

“Forget about that!” he fired back. “It doesn’t happen that way. HIV happens because you girls won’t keep their legs closed.”

Because Nne barely wears her wedding band, Oga felt she was not married and reasoned that her regular HIV check must be born of fear due to her promiscuity.

“I warn you not to have sex till you are married and while married, have it only when you want to get pregnant. Tell your friends, that’s the only way they can stay away from HIV,” Oga admonished.

He continued, “Girls get it more than men. I’m telling you this for your own good. You should rather always come for DAILY vaginal swab test, not just routine HIV test.”

Nne shook her head as she wondered why this MAN of GOD’s interest is now in vaginal swab.

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As she recounted this ordeal to me almost in tears, she said:

“My dear a very sinful person like me carried myself and left the lab and prayed to God to keep their ministry.”

I stood in awe with my mouth agape.

  • My name is Uche Anyanwagu. I say Thank you for being part of this journey. I’ve learnt a lot from you. Yes, you!

This is the 30th and FINAL in this series of short stories on “Medical Myths – Tales by Doctors”

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