In the course of our work, we meet different kinds of people -the odd, the crazy, the know-it-all, the religious and many more. Funny as these may sound, we also learn from these people. All these characters put together, form our field experiences and make our work quite exciting.
On my first day in the field, the first person I tested was reactive! Imagine! I said to myself no way! How I’m I going to handle this! Even though I was trained I sort of panicked. But just as I panicked, I immediately calmed myself, counseled the person and had them follow me from the point of test to the facility for enrollment. Indeed for me that was a good start.
In 2012 during one of my HTC activities, I tested and counseled this man whose test results showed he was reactive. But he rejected his result, saying that wasn’t his portion and so on. I didn’t push further because there is only so much you can do when they are in denial. So I said to him please take my number because I know someday you will really need to call me.
Four years later, in the early hours of the morning of the 31st of July 2016 I got a call. Guess who called?! – It was my reactive client. I didn’t know who so he began introducing himself – Madam I’m *Mr. Roland (not real name), you tested me 4 years ago at *Madala (not real location) and I am now ready to take the treatment. I will come to you on the 1st of August to start treatment.
I met up with him; he was now a shadow of the man I saw in 2012 I almost wept. So the conversation between us went this way “Sir, is this you? My sister it is me oh, do you know I have started having boils and rashes, if I remove my clothes you will run. Please sir don’t remove your clothes”. As a result, his wife had left him with their baby because he was reactive. He said his wife and baby had tested about that time and they were both negative.
He was in that state not for any other reason but largely because of his ignorance and stubbornness. Truth be told, quite a number of our reactive clients usually will go through the denial stage. They will always say there is just no way they could be infected etc. And they are this way until the virus replicates and their immune system begins to break down then it dawns on them that they have to access care.
So I counseled him, starting the process to get him enrolled into a health facility where he will constantly access care. I was so happy because he eventually reached me and was able to commence treatment.
I will point out here that there are times when we meet reactive clients whose initial response is denial. You will of course begin to follow them up, because you want to have them enrolled into a health facility where they will begin to access care. But if after following them up for a while they ignore you, just let them be. But ensure you let them have your contact with the assurance that they could call you anytime they feel they have to.
-by Maryann Njoku Iheakanwa (Project Officer, CFHI-CCFN SUSTAIN project)