Can you really trust your partner???s word when he or she says, ???I am HIV negative???? It is a difficult question to answer, especially if your partner took the test alone.

Fortunately, HIV couples testing is in place, and this means it is now possible to have immediate confirmation on the HIV status of one???s partner.

According to Community Health Education Officer with the HIV Food Bank, Sade Leon Folkes, ???HIV couples testing is really the way to go.???

???People find it very difficult to share their results, so when you come as a couple, it is the only time you get the result in front your partner and your partner gets yours,??? she explained.

Mrs. Leon Folkes was speaking at an HIV sensitisation workshop held for artistes slated to perform at the Love Poetry and Song fund-raising concert on Saturday, February 14, at Charles Fort, Hilton Barbados Resort, at 7:00 p.m.

She praised the event organiser, the Barbados Government Information Service, for this year???s theme: Love can withstand any test, stating that it encouraged persons to get tested and reinforced that with love, couples could conquer any trials they faced.

The Community Health Officer insisted that an HIV couples test was not only for persons in relationships; in fact, she urged persons to take the test during the courtship stage.

Insisting a conversation about HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections was ???part of the new language of courting???, she told the artistes that early discussions would reveal if the potential suitor cared about his or her health, which should in turn indicate if that ???person would care about you???.

She continued: ???When you have an HIV test done individually, part of the issue is confidentiality??? the policy speaks very clearly about that. We, the health professionals, cannot tell your partner or anyone your result.

???So we are saying, get the couples test done. In that way, it is an opportunity for you to understand the importance and the responsibility of sex. When you are having sex, you are responsible for somebody???s life and that person is responsible for yours.???

Taking an HIV couples test is relatively similar to an individual test. The couple is counselled before the actual test is done and at this point, the health professional discusses sexual behaviours and the possible consequences of the results.

The individuals also have an opportunity to discuss their concerns with the health practitioner separately. Both partners then sign an agreement stating they are prepared to have the results in front each other. After that, the test is done. Now, with rapid testing, the waiting period for the results is approximately 20 minutes.

Mrs. Leon Folkes acknowledged that there was the possibility for one person to test positive and the other negative. In a case such as this, she said the theme: Love can withstand any test would be reinforced by health experts as they would outline ways the couple could have a healthy relationship.

She warned that even when both persons test negative for HIV, the couple needed to consider ???the reality of the unguarded moment???.?????I am not suggesting cheating but the reality is it happens. If you decide to step out on your partner, you must then remember to do the right thing and not wait on anyone to protect you. Protect yourself and your partner by wearing a condom,??? she advised.

The Community Health Officer added that contrary to popular belief, HIV was usually shared by persons who were unaware of their status and not primarily by those who knew they were HIV-positive.

HIV couples testing is available at all of the island???s polyclinics, as well as at the Vashti Inniss Empowerment Centre, Jemmotts Lane, St. Michael. Persons may also contact the Centre at 467-9440.

This year???s Love Poetry and Song charity concert will feature Nexcyx, Biggie Irie, Imani, Damian Marvey, Alex Mills, Neesha Woodz, Rebel Glam, Gigi Ma???at, Adrian Green and Dj Kirk Brown, among others.

The show, which raises funds, food and personal care items for the HIV Food Bank, will take place at Charles Fort, Hilton Barbados Resort. Tickets are $25.00, and are available from C S Pharmacy, Broad Street and all locations of Courts Barbados.

Author: Shamkoe Pil??

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