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Condom use a must for HIV+ couples

 

But two couples from Harare’s informal settlement of Epworth say they learnt a tough lesson, that protected sex is even more important when one is infected.

Tsitsi Gundira, a mother of four says she got the shock of her life when her Anti-Retroviral Therapy started becoming less effective.
Her husband, Isaac had refused to get tested when she was found to be infected with the virus in 2007. Isaac’s denial meant that the couple continued having unprotected sex.

“My husband refused to get tested and we were having unprotected sex for quite a long time,” Tsitsi said.

“My CD4 count (test used to determine progression of HIV and onset of Aids) began to fall and I was no longer noticing the effectiveness of the drugs.”
Experts say couples like Tsitsi and Isaac risk re-infecting each other with different strains of the virus leading to drug resistance and further complications.
Isaac says his decision to get tested in 2009 after they both became very sick and the counselling they received proved to be a turning point in their lives.

“We were encouraged to use protection so that we don’t have the problem of re-infection and stabilise our CD4 count,” he said.

“Ever since we started using protection our health has improved, my wife’s CD4 count was at 161 and now it is on 400, which is the same as mine.”
Douglas and Nokuthula Mazorodze from the same area also had a similar tale to share.

Nokuthula tested HIV-positive in 2008 but her husband refused to get tested and they continued to have unprotected sex.

“After sometime I started to have strange health problems,” Douglas said.

“Everytime we had unprotected sex I would experience unbearable stomach pains and with time my wife started to develop some boils.

“These developed all over her body and the situation forced us to seek medical treatment.

“I tested HIV-positive and it was explained that the reason my wife was having these health complications was re-infection. Today we are living a healthy life as we are now using protection each time we have sex.”

Nokuthula said during the period they had unprotected sex she lost a lot of weight and her CD4 count fell to as low as 181.

After they started using protection together with ARVs her CD4 count rose to 500, which is just as good as that of a healthy person.

SafAids Resource Centre administrator, Joshua Chigodora said HIV strains had different treatment regimes, which meant that cross-infection increased chances of drug resistance.

Musa Makondo, the Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with Aids provincial co-ordinator, urged men to be proactive in programmes meant to prevent the spread of the virus by supporting their wives when they get tested.

“There are some cases in which a couple is tested and found to be positive but the husband will still refuse to use protection,” Makondo said.

“However, men don’t realise that they are also endangering their own lives as chances of re-infection will be very high.

Zimbabwe has one of the world’s highest HIV rates, with around one in seven believed to be living with the virus.

Unprotected sex is considered to be one of the leading ways through which the virus is transmitted.

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