“I Didn’t Have The Courage To Get Tested”

Studies show that men who have sex with men are at a higher risk of being infected with HIV as compared to general population. Meanwhile studies show some HIV patients face challenges such as being consistent with taking treatment, Musa Xaba*, a 28-year old man who had sex with other men says it took him five years to get tested after suspecting that he had HIV. Speaking at Prince Cyril Zulu CD Clinic, where Exodus holds a support group for HIV and TB patients, he shared his journey of discovery and treatment with the Daily Vox.

Men who have sex with men are not necessarily gay and would not identify as such. Many are married with children and keep their sexual activities with other men a secret.

I was first diagnosed with HIV this year in July. Although I had never tested before that, I knew already that I was HIV positive. There are things that you know deep down from your heart.

I believe I got infected back in 2012 when I was still at college. I started experiencing different symptoms such as having sores and boils all over my body. Because I knew my ways, I already knew what was happening but didn’t have courage to get tested.

I would talk to my friends casually about it and they would advise that I go get tested. I would promise to go but I never really went. This went on until in July, where I started having rash at the back of my body. I knew this was the time I had to do something about it.

When I went to the clinic to get tested and results came back positive, I told the lady who was testing me not to bother with counselling because I already knew. It was only a matter of confirming and accepting, which I did not really battle with as I had already prepared myself emotionally.

After that confirmation I was initiated on treatment right away. But what bothered me from then until now is the fact that I haven’t been able to inform my former partner. I have tried but the response I got from him made me decide to keep to myself and not bother.

At first when I encouraged him to go get tested he told me I’d be the one who infected him should his results come back positive. I was surprised because I wondered how he’d know that but I just realised I should leave him alone and focus on myself. It still bothers me though because I know he is already HIV positive it’s just that he doesn’t know it yet.

Finding out that I am HIV positive was not an issue, it’s the treatment that has really affected me. I’ve had nightmares at night and have been sweating and couldn’t eat. I’m also having skin discolouration but I think it’s the side effects of the medication.

Since discovering about my status, I’ve been getting support and advice from my friends and few of my family members. Disclosing to them was not hard because they understand. In my family, I only told a few members because others are too traditional and wouldn’t understand. I’ve also been attending the support group at Prince Cyril Zulu Communicable Diseases Clinic, formed by Exodus, which helps patients to adhere to their medication.

Exodus Foundation Ministries is a faith-based organization established that has been working across KwaZulu-Natal since 2011. EFM has been contracted by HST to contribute to achieving PEPFAR goals for HIV testing and treatment programmes in Zululand and Harry Gwala Districts, and for treatment literacy and adherence support through the establishment of support groups in Ethekwini. In addition EFM conducts extensive social mobilisation programmes and nutrition support across the province along with their faith based programmes for youth and community members.

With MSM it’s very easy to contract HIV because of the nature of rough sexual intercourse, so when my ex told me I’d be the one who infected him, I really didn’t understand. He could have gotten it from anyone else, I mean, for me I’ve always been aware that anyone who have unprotected sex can get it.

So, I’ve actually realised how people are afraid of HIV yet willing to have unprotected sex, especially men; because even at work you’d find that the people who make uneasy remarks about others are men. They would make statement such as “This one is dying of HIV”, yet they are not even aware of their own status. The ignorance is shocking.

Since discovering about my status I’ve decided to remain single and find myself – and I’m quite happy.

The person’s name has been changed to protect their identity.

Featured image via Flickr.