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(Nina Benedicte Kouassi and Toimimou Ibrahim at the 2011 International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa, Ethiopia)
In 1994, when 25 year old Amy went to hospital for an voluntary HIV test, she was certain that she would be diagnosed HIV negative. When she received the news that she was HIV positive, she thought that her life was over. At that time, the doctor told her that she had two years to live. But today, she is more than alive and she knows the truth: "without it (the test), I would be dead," she says, ‘’or I would have contracted one of the many AIDS related diseases and found out then, but most likely I would be dead. And even worse, I would have infected my then boyfriend, my kids and God knows who else. Today, I am a mother of three, living my life without any fear because I know my status and I live accordingly. Taking this test saved my life.’’
Amy is a living example of why people should take an HIV test. A test is the only way to know if one is HIV negative or HIV positive. Globally, it is estimated that 34 million people have been diagnosed as HIV positive. But many people living with HIV don’t realise that they have it. As a result the epidemic is still spread around and especially among young people. Did you know that every minute a young woman is newly infected with HIV?
Of course, AIDS isn’t as threatening as it used to be in the eighties, when you could just look at someone and tell that they had it. Today, thanks to effective drug regimens, people living with HIV can live longer, healthier and more productive lives and even give birth to healthy children. Scientific research is very promising and we are getting closer and closer to finding a cure. Of course the first step to benefit from the advancement is to be tested. When tested positive early, the virus can be easily identified and stopped in patient’s body.
Unfortunately, despite these advancements, people are still dying from AIDS. In 2011, Aids claimed 1.7 million lives. Why? Because not enough people were tested in time. This meant that the potentially life-saving treatment was ineffective. The earlier people know their status, the more chance there is that they will live longer.
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As a young man or young woman, take a minute and think: How many sexual partners have you had whose status you were unaware of? Have you taken precautions before coming into contact with someone’s blood? or to put it simply: do you think of yourself as not at risk of HIV infection? People who do not know their status are at risk of contracting an AIDS related disease or infecting others. Studies have shown that when people find out they have HIV, they are more likely to take steps to protect their health and that of their partners.
These are the reasons why everyone should be tested for HIV. HIV tests are very quick, reliable and results are always confidential. While it is normal to be afraid of a positive result, it is more courageous to know your status.
Achieving an HIV free generation, achieving zero new infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero discrimination is not only left to AIDS service organisations. No, it is a task assigned to all of us. And our first role is to get tested. Get tested, know your status and carry on. HIV does not kill but ignorance does!
 Unaids, Global report on the Aids epidemic 2012