Testing: A Catalyst for Change

Testing: A Catalyst for Change

By: Brandy Campbell   |   Posted: August 23, 2007

Through the support of Compassion's AIDS Initiative, thousands of caregivers and children receive free HIV testing and counseling, like this mother in Ethiopia.

A young mother walks along a dusty road, her son clutching her sweaty hand. She looks down at the crumpled flier she holds, and for a moment, she almost turns around. What if her neighbors find out that she was tested for HIV? They won't buy eggs from her small market stall. They won't let their children play with her son. Her son. She glances down at his clear brown eyes, and she finds her courage. His father is gone. He needs her.

Scenarios just like this happen every day in Africa. The largest obstacle to voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) is fear. VCT remains a frightening prospect for those living in communities where the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS is crippling. To avoid this discrimination, thousands of adults refuse testing for themselves and their children they prefer ignorance to isolation.

Project health workers battle this lack of knowledge daily because they understand that without testing, the spread of this deadly disease will continue. So they spend hours visiting homes, passing out fliers, and organizing rallies where families can learn the truth about AIDS and get free HIV-testing from trained doctors and nurses. They spend time networking with clinics to offer free testing.

Staff members also work with community leaders, encouraging them to submit to a test an action that diminishes the stigma attached to VCT. Your support of the AIDS Initiative directly funds voluntary counseling and testing and helps slow this terrible pandemic that kills nearly 1,500 children every day. Testing is just the beginning of VCT. Following testing, health workers must offer counseling and follow-up visits.

The counseling process varies by community, but the steps usually include both short- and long-term counseling for those who test positive. Project staff members also help caregivers and children set up doctor's appointments, and they arrange transportation, when necessary.
"Testing and counseling is the gateway for prevention and comprehensive care," concludes George Osoo, Kenya Health Specialist. "The bottom line, though, is the willingness of the client to present him or herself at the testing site. It is our job to teach people why testing is so important ... to teach them that testing can save their lives."

The testing results came back quicker than the young mother thought they would. She isn't shocked by the results. Sad, but not shocked. She is surprised, though, that this woman who delivered the news hasn't already fled the room. Instead, she sits close to her, holding her shaking hand, and explains the next steps. And for a moment, this frightened mother realizes this isn't the end.