David is enjoying a quiet Saturday afternoon with his crew when Brayo comes running towards them. His face lights up at the sight of David as if he remembered something delicate that he, nevertheless, must share.
He lands heavily on the rickety chair that the crew already grew wary of, almost breaking its weak leg. He catches a breath as he smiles wickedly, aware of the attention he has earned from the boys at the hangout bemusingly located right outside a local butchery.
“By the way, have you heard?” he enquires while pulling up the unsteady chair closer to the wall for reinforcement and turns to David. ”Somebody saw your girl - err-your ex - outside the clinic yesterday,” he blurts out with a particular emphasis on ‘the clinic’.
Everybody instantly leans forward and waits for a reaction. David and the girl in question had a sort-of relationship a few months back. It wasn’t meant to last. David, a largely restrained guy, had gone to great lengths to win over Angie, a girl he considered his ideal partner even when he barely knew anything about her.
Their brief courtship period was nothing short of eventful and at some point, he felt he was being drawn into an endless vortex of permissiveness. Luckily, he had ended it before (or so he thought) doing something very out-of-character. But the latest claims now being reinforced by his own buddies are shaking up his self-assurance.
“She was never my girl,” he retorts, clearly losing his composure at the alarming insinuations by his friends. He was particularly angered by his buddies’ failure to raise their objections when he had expressed interest in her and the fact that they seemed to take pleasure in poking fun at his unravelling predicament.
“I have heard things. You should get checked man,” Brayo advises between bouts of insensitive giggling. Nobody says anything but they are all thinking about it. With the growing tension, the subject immediately changes to the upcoming clash between Liverpool and Man City.
The rumours have been spreading like wildfire. He initially ignored them as idle talk. He is not so sure anymore. Even the local Mama Mboga had something to say. A couple of nights ago, he woke up sweating profusely and his muscles and joints were sore. He suspected Malaria but never got the courage to get tested for that either.
He tried to convince himself that his weight loss was due to the recent deterioration of his appetite. Out of desperation, he had turned online to find answers. Self-diagnosis, he thought, was much better than the ‘shame’ of facing a nurse, a decision he was now beginning to regret. With every click of his mouse, his anxiety multiplied. All his supposed symptoms seemed to lead to a conclusion he did not like. The symptoms seemed to mysteriously magnify with every online anecdote. In the last few months, there are nights he has not slept at all.
The football arguments are now getting louder. His friends nudge him for a comment but he is lost in thought. Visiting the clinic is not an option, he figures. Brayo will not let it go until he shares the results with the crew. Besides, the resident nurse is a well-known gossiper - he knows this all too well from his volunteering days at the health centre. The last few times he tried walking into a clinic far from his mtaa, his feet would not shake away the mortifying prospect of being found out. The uncertainty was now ferociously eating into his productivity.
Determined to put an end to his misery, he suddenly rises from his seat. His friends are so preoccupied with the football banter that they do not see him slip out. Perhaps it's time he tries the selfie he has been hearing about. The kit he ordered weeks ago is still stashed somewhere in his wardrobe, away from any would-be prying eyes.
David has made a very important step in taking charge of his health at a time when the Ministry of Health is raising concerns over the rise in new HIV infections among the youth. 2018 data from the ministry shows that over 40 per cent of all new HIV infections occur among youth between 15-24 years.
Let’s face it, HIV testing can be quite a stressful prospect. It is even worse if you recently engaged in a risky sexual encounter or have ever had unprotected sexual relations with a questionable partner. The stress alone is enough to make you mistake normal body sensations or minor symptoms as signs of a positive HIV status.
If you fail to take the right steps, it is possible that you might develop the illness anxiety disorder also known as hypochondriasis. HIV testing is the only way to know your status and finally get some peace of mind. The distress from worrying can potentially disrupt your social life and productivity at school or work.
Fortunately, testing doesn’t have to involve waiting in long queues anymore or having to endure the embarrassment of explaining your most well-kept secrets to the nurse. The HIV self-testing kit or simply, the selfie, makes the process even faster and simpler, all from the convenience of your home.
To #ChukuaSelfie, you get two testing options to chose from, depending on your preference and they both produce accurate results in just a few minutes. If you are comfortable with a quick needle prick on your finger, the blood test is for you. For those of us who would prefer not to be pricked at all, there is an oral test option where you take a swab of your gum and inner cheeks.
If your results turn out positive, you must visit a professional testing centre for a confirmatory test because it is possible to have a false positive result. You can also call 1190 to speak to a counsellor discreetly.
If the results turn out negative, you still have to continue practising safe sex and self-testing yourself and your partner(s).
Wacha stress. #ChukuaSelfie - enjoy life.
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