It's not about trust

When Said met Siti at a party recently, he could not take his eyes off her. He liked the way she laughed, danced and the way she looked at him. Finally he gained the courage to approach her. He was so happy when she agreed to dance with him and hinted that she too was attracted to him.

Towards the end of the evening, it was clear that they had so much in common: Both loved the same kind of music, enjoyed the same subjects in school and they loved dancing. This attracted them to each other even more.
A few weeks later, Siti and Said were in love, they could not dream of one single day without seeing each other. At the beginning they agreed to have protected sex, meaning they used a condom every time they had sex. Of late, however, Said wants them to stop using condoms because he says they love and trust each other. He is sure that Siti is faithful and he certainly doesn’t dream of any other girl who could take her place in his heart.

Siti too cannot think of having another boyfriend but Said is not her first. She had a few other boyfriends before him. Although she has often had protected sex, she didn’t use a condom every single time. She knows that this could also be true for Said. So Siti is in a dilemma. How can she tell Said so that he understands? Even though she trusts him to be faithful she cannot tell what he was doing before they met.
This dilemma is one of the biggest challenges in today’s relationships. You cannot know everything about your partner’s sexual history before you met. Was he/she having protected sex? Is he/she infected with HIV? Even if someone claims to have been careful the fact is that we have all been exposed to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Unfortunately many people still believe that an HIV-infected person will show the visible symptoms of AIDS and therefore you can tell by looking.
A recent survey conducted by Population Services International (PSI) and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) revealed that young people believe that an HIV-infected person will always be skinny with rashes and wounds all over their bodies.
“This is a myth. Unfortunately many people believe it,” says Dr Peter Ngaiza of PSI. “There is no way you can tell if your partner is infected or not. It’s not only in Tanzania, but research in many other countries prove that young people believe the same thing.”
According to Dr Ngaiza, young people also believe that people coming from well to-do families are not infected with HIV. They believe they are more knowledgeable and therefore are not at risk. This is not true!

Young people tend to completely ‘trust’ a partner they think is faithful to them and the ones who look healthy, without any visible signs of HIV. Judging your partner’s health by his/her appearance, social status or family background is wrong and may expose you to risks.
“Prevention starts by knowing that even you are at risk,” says Dr. Ngaiza. “You have to walk around aware of the fact that anyone you meet might be infected. HIV is not among prostitutes only, anyone might be infected.”

Kennedy Lazaro thinks this is the hardest truth to believe. He says although he knows anyone with good moral values can actually be infected.
“Some girls are so innocent looking, they just make you trust them,” says Lazaro. “If you know for sure a girl is faithful to you, how can you not trust that she is healthy? It is very difficult.” But the question is not whether or not your partner is faithful now. The issue is they might have been involved in any risky behaviour like having unprotected sex before you met? Even if you think the chances are very slim, the risk is real. If so, then they might be infected with HIV or any other sexually transmitted diseases. That is why PSI and Ishi spend a lot of resources in raising awareness among youth on facts about HIV. Through the media and educational visits to schools, PSI is sending messages to youths that you can’t know your partner’s sexual history. Besides, you cannot tell for sure what your partner is doing when you are not together. The Ishi campaign, in collaboration with JHU, says you cannot tell by looking. Ask yourself what your partner was doing before you met.

HIV prevention

It is important to prevent the spread of HIV by doing the following things:

Do not have sex

Have one sexual partner for life

Always use a condom

Respect women and their right to say “NO” to sex

Teach each other about the dangers of unprotected sex

Prevention is better than cure, so they say! Take care