Patient Mobilizes His Community and Helps Triple HIV Testing
When Mustafa (his name has been changed to protect his privacy) came to the hospital to support his HIV-positive sister, Community Care Specialist Callista Ike had no idea that two months later he would be helping to triple HIV counseling and testing rates at his regional hospital in Taraba State, Nigeria.
Counseling and testing are vital to stemming the HIV & AIDS epidemic. Widespread testing not only improves early diagnosis and helps patients receive lifesaving treatment, but it also helps decrease stigma associated with HIV & AIDS and educate infected and uninfected patients alike on how to prevent the spread of the virus. HIV testing can also be an “entry point” for people to receive other critical health care services, such as prenatal care or immunizations for their children.
Mustafa’s sister had tested positive for HIV through provider-initiated testing and counseling at a government-owned, MSH-supported hospital. While waiting for her to finish her own appointment, Mustafa received HIV pretest information in the waiting room and decided to be tested himself. Like his sister, he was HIV positive.
Post-test Counseling Pays Off
Callista, part of MSH’s AIDS Care and Treatment (ACT) Project, met Mustafa during a routine support visit to the hospital. He pulled her aside and asked to speak with her privately. Knowing his sister’s status, Callista feared that Mustafa planned to abandon her, but instead he was looking for someone to confide in. Post-test counseling is critical to helping people who are HIV negative learn how to remain so and to helping HIV-positive people understand that hope remains for them and others like them.
Callista’s support helped Mustafa see the positive impact he could have by encouraging his friends and neighbors to be tested. When Callista commented to Mustafa that most of the people he referred for testing were HIV infected, he responded, “Ma, you see, any one of my friends or neighbors who complains of similar health problems as I used to experience, I will quickly encourage to go for HIV screening.”
An Unofficial Ambassador Becomes a Vital Hospital Volunteer
Recognizing the value of Mustafa’s dedication to helping others who—like him—didn’t know they were infected with HIV, the ACT team trained him as a testing and counseling support volunteer and introduced him to the hospital’s HIV coordinator, who happily accepted his application.
The results of Mustafa’s commitment are astonishing: during his first month as a hospital volunteer, 408 people received counseling and testing, surpassing the 351 people who had been tested during the previous three months.
Mustafa’s role in promoting counseling and testing alongside MSH and hospital staff continues to expand. He serves as a role model and mentor for his HIV-positive peers, and he travels to provider-initiated testing and counseling sites in other MSH-supported hospitals to work with facility staff. He even participated in the MSH HIV Counseling and Testing training usually reserved for health care professionals. For World AIDS Day 2008, Mustafa played a vital role in community outreach for counseling and testing by talking with community members in their local language.