National Campaign Urging Women to Get Tested for HIV
Positive Women Inc Launches National Campaign Urging Women to Get Tested for HIV
Tonya Booker died from undiagnosed HIV. She was 48 years old.
Tonya had spent more than two years in and out of hospital seeking medical attention for various conditions. Not once was she offered an HIV test, even though many of the symptoms were classic symptoms of late stage HIV.
As the eldest of seven siblings, Tonya was a pivotal member of a close-knit family. She left behind a devoted partner and an 8-year-old daughter, whose lives have been irrevocably changed by the loss. “We felt incredibly let down by the medical profession and the health system as a whole”, one family member says. “It is not so much because she had HIV that Tonya died, but because she happened to be a woman with HIV, and that meant the disease went undiagnosed and untreated. If it were not for that blind-spot, she would be alive today.”
“It was beyond our belief that we would lose our daughter to HIV in this day and age” says Carolyn Booker, Tonya’s mother. “The Health system let Tonya down at every stage. By the time an HIV test was finally done, it was too late and we had to watch her die eight days later”, “She had carried the virus for twelve years and had never once been tested. Her death has left a huge hole in our lives”.
“Dying as a result of HIV in this day and age is unacceptable,” says Jane Bruning, National Coordinator of Positive Women Inc. the national support organisation for women and families living with HIV and AIDS. “Women can get HIV too but they are not being offered an HIV test as part of routine diagnostic processes. The main reason for this is because they are not considered to be an “at risk group”.
While globally more than 50% of people living with HIV are women and girls, the most at risk group in New Zealand are men who have sex with men. Unfortunately, a woman has died as a result of this focus.
For National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day, Positive Women Inc. has launched its national campaign encouraging women to Take Charge and Take the Test for HIV. The campaign is aimed not only at the general public but at the wider medical profession where Positive Women Inc. are strongly advocating that HIV testing be instituted as part of all routine diagnostic procedures.
“Anyone who is sick and presenting with unexplained symptoms needs to be offered an HIV test” says Bruning, “but better yet, we encourage women to take charge and take the test”.
Positive Women Inc. is an organisation providing support to women and families living with HIV and also aims to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS in the community through educational programmes with a focus on prevention and de-stigmatisation.