Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Swaziland "Love Test"

Population Services International (PSI) has started a new HIV testing program called “love testing,” where couples from Swaziland receive HIV testing together, as a couple. Joining forces with UNICEF and UNAIDS, this program has received $3,000,000 from PEPFAR (The US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) to act in Swaziland, where the rate of HIV/AIDS is over 26% of the population. PSI spokesman Dominic McNeill explains that the logic behind the campaign is that that HIV testing is wasted if only one member of a sexually active couple is tested. As they say, it takes two to tango, and if one person has been tested for HIV, and the other hasn’t, the tested individual is not free from contracting HIV from their partner. It is important to have all sexually active members tested in order to prevent further spreading of the disease.

By calling it “love testing,” the campaign has had an incredibly effective turn out so far, as PSI has “seen a 25 percent increase in couple testing and a 400 percent in general testing year-on-year" (CNN) However, PSI also explains that men prove more resistant to testing, as a way of protecting their masculinity. PSI has told CNN that they must go to places male presence is prevalent, such as farms, churches, and even prisons. Such voluntary testing is certainly a great step in the right direction towards HIV/AIDS treatment, but of course we all know that the focus needs to be turned to prevention through…bum bum bum…family planning and contraceptives!

If you would like to see PSI's official Love Test Video, click here.


Bibu said...

I think this is an incredible step forward for Swaziland and I'm sure it'll be much more effective than the mass circumcision plan that was implemented a year or so ago(wtf). Swaziland is steeped in tradition, indigenous religion peppered with Christianity and polygamy. Many women in Southern Africa are met with anger and even violence when trying to approach their lovers with HIV/AIDS testing. Although we're just dealing with words here, I have a lot of hope that the stigma will wear out and couples will consider this test a healthy(ha) step. Also, I hope this approach will resonate with the heads of the many polygamous families that remain unprotected and with unknown status.

Jenna said...

Wow. Very impressive.