Zambia: HIV Counseling and Testing as an Avenue for Hope (August 2006)

The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Emergency Plan/PEPFAR) and its host country partners have led the way in supporting the expansion of access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in the developing world. Yet one of the key limiting factors is people's lack of knowledge of their HIV status. Although HIV prevention, treatment and care services are available, a person unaware of his or her serostatus will not access life-saving antiretroviral treatment, care that can prevent opportunistic infections, and may not take all possible prevention steps to avoid spreading infection.

Counseling and testing are key gateways to prevention, care and treatment. In Zambia, the Emergency Plan is supporting the Kara Counseling Center in Lusaka. The center provides HIV counseling and testing, as well as treatment-related care for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

One beneficiary of services at the Kara Counseling Center is Joseph Mwamba. Joseph turned to the center for HIV counseling and testing services for his family.

Worried that the constant illnesses of his daughter and her three-year-old son were signs of HIV infection, Joseph wanted the two to be tested for HIV, but feared that his daughter would not agree.

To set an example, Joseph decided to be tested. "My daughter fell critically ill in 2004 and I was advised to take her to Kara Counseling for an HIV test. ... I thought it [would] be better if I started with myself, so that I would be in a better position to advise her," Joseph explained.

Joseph received the results of his test and learned that he was HIV-positive. Although discouraged by the test results, Joseph was determined to live positively with HIV. Through counseling, he knew that antiretroviral treatment represented promise for the future.

Encouraged by her father, Joseph's daughter and grandson went to the center to get tested and discovered they were both HIV-positive.

Unfortunately, action came too late for Joseph's daughter, who died before she could start treatment. However, Joseph and his grandson were able to access life-saving antiretroviral treatment. The hope for the pair's future was reborn.

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