The man* had been diagnosed with HIV after undergoing couples HIV couselling and testing with his girlfriend. The mother of his two-year-old child, the woman had disclosed her own HIV-positive status to him two days earlier.
He had apparently been in a state of shock about the disclosure.
“My son was tearing up the whole day and kept asking his girlfriend why she had done this to him,” said the man’s heartbroken mother. “Later at night, while we were sleeping in the main house he slipped out of his backyard shack. We found him dead.”
“I thought it was better to tell him instead of hiding the truth from him,” she said. “I was taking treatment secretly but thought he should know so if he was HIV positive he could also start treatment.”
“It is so painful to lose him,” she added. “I don’t know why he didn’t see the solution, that we could both take treatment and be okay. I wanted him to be okay.”
“Being affected with HIV is not about death because treatment is there to reduce the virus,” she said.[quote float= left]I don’t know why he didn’t see the solution, that we could both take treatment and be okay”
Conducted among about 1,760 couples in which one partner was HIV positive, a recent study found that antiretroviral (ARVS) treatment was able to cut the risk of HIV transmission between partners by 93 percent. This was because HIV-positive partners had taken daily ARV treatment long enough to bring the level of HIV in their blood – or HIV viral load – down to very low levels. This is often called having an undectable viral load.
South Africa’s first, recently released HIV stigma index found that 11 percent of people who are diagnosed HIV positive considered suicide.
Manana Njephe is an HIV counsellor at Segametsi Mogaetsho Clinic about 100 kms outside Klerksdorp in the North West. Njephe said high rates of HIV stigma make pre-HIV test counselling crucial.
“Counselling is important because you will learn about HIV and also see a way forward if you are positively diagnosed,” she said. “You will learn how to look after yourself, emotionally and physically, and be encouraged to take the medication, which can help you greatly.”
*Names withheld to protect the child.