Voluntary Counselling and Testing at Rhodes
Voluntary HIV testing, together with pre-and post-test counselling (VCT) is one of the most effective ways of stopping the spread of HIV, and is available free of charge at Rhodes.
Arranging a test
VCT takes place at the Health Care Centre (except during special campaigns, where it may take place elsewhere as well) and counsellors from the Counselling Centre as well as the Health Care Centre nursing staff are qualified to do the pre- and post-test counselling. The test has to be administered by the nursing staff.
Counsellors are available at the Health Care Centre daily from Mon - Friday from 2 - 4 pm. You need to make an appointment to ensure that you can be seen at your convenience. If you just arrive the Health Care Centre may not be able to accommodate you on the booking schedule. Sometimes, e.g. if a client wishes to have counselling in Xhosa, the nursing staff will do the counselling as well as the testing. VCT is also available at the Raphael Centre, and all Primary Health Care Clinics, where no appointments are necessary.
The Health Care Centre uses a rapid test which takes between 5 and 15 minutes. The whole process, including the counselling takes about 35 minutes. If the result is negative, you receive post- test counselling, which is can help you make sure that you stay uninfected. If you are sexually active you should test every 3 months.
If the result is positive, you will immediately be given a different brand of rapid test to confirm it. The nurse will also take a blood sample, which will be sent away to a laboratory for further confirmation. These tests work by detecting HIV antibodies in the blood. If you would like further confirmation, other tests can be arranged.
The next step would be to take a blood test to check your CD 4 count and viral load. Your CD 4 count gives you an indication of how far the virus has progressed.
What happens next will depend on how far the virus has progressed, as well as on your choices. If you have no symptoms, you will be advised to have 6-monthly check-ups, where your health and your CD 4 count will be monitored. If you are at a slightly later stage, you might be given treatment that helps your body fight off diseases like flu and pneumonia as well as micronutrients such as vitamins, which boost your immune system. This type of supportive treatment is offered free by the Health Care Centre.
If you need Antiretrovirals (ARV)
You will be advised that you need ARVs if you CD 4 count is below 200. The Health Care Centre does not provide ARVs, but if you do need them, you will be referred to Settler’s Hospital, where you can access ARVs free of charge, or to a private doctor, though this is more expensive.
The Health Care Centre records your result for statistical purposes, however, your test remains completely confidential. If you test HIV positive, you may be shocked or afraid and you will need people to support you. Who you choose to tell, is entirely up to you, but you are encouraged to take someone you trust into your confidence - you will need their support and love. You should also make further appointments with the Counselling Centre.
Health Care Centre (Lucas Avenue) 046 603 8523
Raphael Centre (11 Donkin Street) 046 622 8831
Counselling Centre (office hours) 046 603 7070
Psychological emergency line (after hours) 082 803 0177
Toll free Aids Helpline 0800 012 322