World AIDS Day 1st December. Are you sufficiently clued up? A counsellor’s perspective…

World AIDS Day is coming around again!

Are you up to date regarding your knowledge of HIV and ahead of the game when

it comes to keeping yourself safe?

As a psychologist and HIV counsellor since 1991, I am constantly surprised by how much misinformation is still out there regarding HIV and risk behaviour.

In my counselling I still come across the following myths:

1. Serial monogamy is safe. 

Many people seem to believe that as long as you are only having sex with one person at atime that you are safe.This is certainly not the case. Before you embark on a new sexual relationship it is thus recommended that both you and your new partner go for an HIV test before you become sexually intimate.

2. You can go for an HIV test on Monday if you had risky sex on Saturday night.

You need to think about the window period when considering an HIV test, which for an

antibody test is three months. You can’t be assured of a totally reliable result unless you wait for three months

after your last sexual experience.  

3. You can tell intuitively if someone is HIV positive.

Most of us know that they only way to tell if someone is HIV positive is if they have been for an HIV test three months after their last sexual experience. However, in my counselling I often meet couples who stop using condoms after a while when they feel they can trust each other. It is important to realise that anyone can have HIV if they have had a previous relationship. Always insist that you know the HIV status of your partner!

4. If I test negative I will know that my partner is HIV negative.

Do you realise that that it is possible to have an unprotected sexual relationship with someone who is HIV positive for some time without becoming HIV positive yourself? 

A a few years ago a married couple came in for counselling and testing. They had two children and had been together for four years. When I tested them, the husband was HIV positive and his wife was negative. It turned out that he had been HIV positive before they got together and she had not sero-converted in all the time they had been together!  For this reason it is important to test yourself three months after the end of a relationship. If you are in an ongoing relationship and are not using protection, then you will always be in a window period for any HIV test that you take. 


If you would like more information on HIV/AIDS  or if you would like to have some counselling and/or an HIV test, phone The Western Cape AIDS Training, Information and Counselling Centre on 021 7635320   (Plumstead, Cape Town) 

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