Leaving her husband didn’t cross Janet’s mind when she discovered that he is HIV positive early this year. Robert, in his mid-thirties recognizes that his wife has been his source of strength and is grateful to have discovered his HIV status before he could pass on the virus to her. Janet and Robert were among the over 100 people that attended the discordant couples forum at the MJAP ISS clinic in October last year.
The young couple is ready to face the disease together, and Janet is determined to be by her husband’s side all the way. From the way they share their experience, talk about their children and young family, one can tell that they are in love and will stand by each other.
Getting tested and accepting the results
When JanetMusiime discovered she was pregnant with her 3rd child, she was not as excited as she was during her first pregnancy that resulted into a set of twins. During their courtship, Janet and Robert had agreed that they would have two children. However, when they got the twins, Janet’s family insisted that they had to have another child. In her culture, it is believed that twins have to be followed by another child. As a dutiful husband, Robert accompanied his wife for her antenatal visit. The health worker recommended that Janet and her husband take an HIV test. Robert’s results turned positive while Janet’s were negative.
“I was very busy that day but Janet insisted that I accompany her to the clinic. As a supportive husband, I accepted. I never expected that I would be HIV positive. Much as I was devastated by the results, I am very thankful that I took the test that day. ” Robert says.
Mrs.Musiime admits that it was very difficult for her to accept that her husband was HIV positive while she was negative. As a teacher, she had read and heard about discount couples but she never really thought that theirs could be one of them. She admits to having been disappointed by her husband.
“I was not disappointed by his HIV status. I was disappointed that my husband who I trusted so much had had an extra marital affair. It took me a while to accept that he had cheated on me,” she says.
However, she did not dwell so much on blaming her husband. She decided that she had married her husband for better and for worse, in sickness and in health. The sickness had come and she would stand by him through it.
Getting information on discordance
Like any other young people, the first source of information Janet and Robert thought about was the internet. They took to Google and read everything they could about discordance. Robert was enrolled into care at the MJAP ISS clinic and they received counselling. He was told about the discordant couples’ forum and invited his wife to join him.
“The information and experiences we got online cannot compare to what have learnt from the forum today. These are real people with almost similar challenges and situations. I am glad I came for this forum,” Janet says.
“My wife is very supportive. She ensures that I get a balanced diet and that I take my medication. This forum is important to me because I need to ensure that my wife remains negative,” Robert says.
MJAP Support for discordant couples
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines discordant couples as those where one partner is HIV-infected and the other is not, where a couple is defined as two persons in an ongoing sexual relationship and each of these persons is referred to as a “partner” in the relationship.
MJAP regularly holds forums for discordant couples to ensurecontinuous education on HIV, treatment adherence and psychosocial support. Members learn about infection prevention, family planning, condom use and disclosure among others.