The drive by health authorities for an AIDS-free generation has enabled many people to know their status.
Not long ago, agreeing to be screened for the HIV virus in Cameroon was viewed with much trepidation by some people. Recently, the Minister of Public Health announced compulsory HIV screening for all patients who come to hospital, before later said the test was optional. Going by the recent dispensation, thousands of people who did not know their HIV status used the opportunity to do so.
Now, new HIV cases are diagnosed daily and the people immediately placed on treatment instead of waiting to fall sick before taking antiretroviral drugs. In Douala, like any other town, the news was welcomed with mixed feelings. Very few people commended the measure by the Minister, while a greater number thought it was rather abrupt and disturbing. At the Mboppi Baptist Hospital, Douala, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Guy Molesa, disclosed that some patients vehemently refused to carry out the screening, saying they were not psychologically prepared.
Before the Minister later said the HIV test was optional, only few of the 800 patients consulted in the hospital daily willingly accepted to be screened. “Since we implemented the decision and later on convinced patients to go for the test, the number of new HIV patients and those on HIV treatment have increased. The measure is an opportunity to know one’s status, take treatment, protect the family and reduce contamination,” Dr. Guy Molesa explained.
The refusal to be tested, according to medics, is not because adults lack the 500 FCFA to do it. Rather, it is because some are afraid of the outcome of the result, while others keep procrastinating. According to the Littoral Delegate for Public Health, Dr. Martin Yamba Beyas, those who cannot escape the test are pregnant women. “It is very compulsory for pregnant women because it is important to know their status in order to avoid mother-to-child transmission of the virus. The initiative is good because we need a viable work force and an AIDS-free generation. I advise everyone to know their HIV status by being screened,” he said.