For the past two weeks or so, I have been laughing my lungs out at the different messages and memes shared by ‘’the male gender’’ on social media and how they feel about Valentine’s day. Like honestly though, why do men fear Valentine’s day so much, and when will they ever get used to Valentine?
Every year, men in Eswatini ( I’m not sure about other parts of the world) come up with stories such as insinuating that women think Valentine’s day is their birthday and they are the only ones who need to be pampered. And well, I beg to differ with the notion that women are the only ones who want to be pampered on this day. I actually think that women are the ones who take Valentine’s day seriously and go all out to make their men feel appreciated on the day. Now it bothers me why men assume women think the day is about them. Or is it an escape strategy perhaps, so they are excused from participating in the buying of gifts for their significant others. It is during the same time too where men come up with illusionary conferences and ‘schedule’ them for the days leading up to and including Valentine’s day itself. Honestly, it has become a very interesting game to watch. Hahaha, what a fallacy!
Nervous about ‘’the talk’’ with your partner? Get tested for HIV together
With that being said, as we celebrate Valentine’s day, it is paramount to remind couples about the importance of knowing each other’s HIV status as they continue with their relationship. Out of the many gifts you can share with each other, going for an HIV test is the best gift you can give to each other. And there are many benefits to testing together as a couple because it improves communication and disclosure of HIV status, which you otherwise wouldn’t have achieved on your own. I want to believe that coming back home with an HIV positive result is the most difficult thing to share and discuss with your partner, but imagine getting that result together and have someone communicate that to you both. It certainly takes away the burden from each one of you, as you immediately get counselling on how to support each other during the first few months of discovery and for the rest of your lives.
The first few days might also determine a few changes in your lifestyle and that too requires a huge amount of support from each other. A living testimony of the benefit of testing together as a couple is a Simelane family of Calakabusha Support Group in the Shiselweni region, who are not shy to tell the world that they are happily married and have been living with HIV since 2009. The family attest to the fact that testing together brought them closer together and that their support for each other has improved. Make Mavis Simelane says for the past 10 years since their diagnosis, they have been inseparable as they do everything together and support each other with house chores.
She says they have even overlooked gender roles as performing a certain task is always viewed from the perception of support not from the male and female perspective. She says when her husband is not feeling well on a particular day, she maws the lawn and waters the garden and vice versa, when she isn’t feeling too well, her husband takes over the kitchen and looks after their children. The Simelane family encourages couples to test together because, “it changes your lifestyle for the better”, they emphasise.
Benefits of Testing together as a couple
- Reduces the burden of sharing one’s HIV-positive status by ensuring provider-assisted mutual disclosure
- Creates an opportunity for couples to discuss, establish, or revise sexual agreements for their relationship;
- Allows couples to prepare a risk-reduction plan based on the HIV status of both partners;
- Provides a built-in support system, which is important for discordant couples (i.e., one partner is HIV-positive and the other is HIV-negative), for whom antiretroviral therapy (ART) may significantly reduce the risk of transmission;
- Supports pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and condom use, which can help prevent HIV transmission; and
- Early diagnosis of HIV infection and linkage to care enables persons with HIV to start treatment sooner, which leads to better health outcomes and longer, healthier lives.
There is no doubt that couple testing teaches couples techniques and skills to enhance the quality of their relationship, communication, and shared commitment to safer behaviours.
Wishing you all a safe and responsible celebration of Valentine’s day.
By Siphesihle Nkwanyana | NERCHA Head of Communications