Having a different HIV status to your partner

| Odwa Funeka
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Lindiwe Kameni was ill in 2004. “I was in Jo’burg when I fell sick, and I tested HIV-positive”, she says. She told her husband her HIV status and things started to change.

“My husband tested negative and that’s where the problem started.” Her husband Lwazi, says that he still loves his wife despite her status. The couple is not staying together at the moment. “When I heard about her status, I thought I was the one who infected her because she has caught me with concubines more than once. She has been faithful to me and I am the one who has been cheating. I was surprised when I tested negative,” he said.

After Lindiwe was diagnosed with HIV, the couple managed to have an HIV negative-child together. They have been through counselling together and things seemed fine, but mixed statuses continued to open cracks in their relationship.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), only 40% of people living with HIV globally know their HIV status. Up to 50% of HIV-positive people in on-going relationships have HIV-negative partners. These are called serodiscordant relationships. Of those HIV-positive individuals who know their status, many have not disclosed their HIV status to their partners, nor do they know their partners’ HIV status.

A significant number of new infections occur within serodiscordant couples. There are many reasons why we have serodiscordant partners. HIV viral load, type of virus and genetic factors are just some of the things that determine the chances of transmission from one partner to another. Lack of information on reasons why partners have different HIV status can lead to arguments, fights, insults and separation or divorce.

Serodiscordant partners can continue to have a fully active and satisfying sex life despite their mixed status. Ncumisa Mpaka is a Community Liaison Officer with the Department of Health. She says serodiscordant partners can lead a positive and happy life after knowing about their status. She says, though, that they need to get professional counselling together so that they can support each other. “Once one partner is diagnosed with HIV, it is important for him or her to start on antiretroviral treatment to minimise the chances of infecting the other partner,” she said. She also said that the partners should continue to use a condom.

This article was produced by Community Media Trust. It has been edited for GroundUp.


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