It’s an era of coming out. Hash tags are trending and a lot of cats are being let out of the bag. It takes confidence and more strength than ever to stand before the world and tell your struggles. Support systems then come and before you know it, stories similar to yours are released. You become alive and feel freer in this constrictive world. You are not ALONE.
It is the World’s AIDS day. What a way to start December! Remember the days when there used to be too much propaganda revolving around this killer disease? Families abandoned their own the moment they heard they were infected. Others began planning the funeral immediately the news reached them. The stigma was unbearable. Those infected lost their lives not because they were too weak to hold on, but from the rife stigmatization.
A few years on, we can see many changes. More people are now learning about the symptoms, mode of transmission and prevention. Although stigmatisation has not been completely eliminated through awareness, families now support their members and encourage them. Having HIV/AIDS is not the end of life!
You probably remember the much talked about visit to Babu? Loliondo kwa Babu. Rings a bell? This was a time the mystical old man said he could cure those with AIDS. The journey began, throngs of people lined up to get the ‘dose’ from far and wide.
Among them, was Doreen Moraa and her mother. Doreen is a young lady born with the virus. She has been on the Anti Retroviral (ARVs) drugs for as long as she could remember. After the Babu ‘magic’ however, she decided she would stop taking them. She believed she had been cured. She was in for a rude shock, when after a while she and her mother decided to go for testing. The results were positive.
Meet Renny Mbori and Martin Amollo Oyoti. A married couple. They have been all over the media this week for the courage to disclose their positive status. That is not how it used to be.
The wife, for 10 good years kept the secret to herself having the virus from the husband. She was taking her drugs secretly although she ensured all her children were born free of it. How, you may ask? They were tested at both 6 months and 1 year, they hadn’t acquired it. She then went into a journey of lacking to breastfeed them. All along Martin was the workaholic most men are in their households and had only noticed the lack of breastfeeding.
She had gone to the extreme measures of changing the name of her card to avoid her hubby’s questions. The card was said to be a belonging of her ‘friend’. He let it end there as found it wise not to argue with his woman. He was in the dark.
The secret to ARVs is, the more you use them, the more protected you are. Renny was going through an episode of giving up where she stopped taking her medication. Without knowledge, Martin acquired it as her immune system had weakened and they are now sailing in the same boat.
On the day of her revelation to her dear husband, the wife was well armed with a knife handy in case he pounced on her. But he didn’t. He turned to be one of the few cut out from a good clothing. He was understanding and supportive. What if she had told him this earlier? It would have been better maybe. Disclosure isn’t as easy as you think.
Doreen admits that there are men who have simply avoided her in the dating scenario, as she is positive. Majority flee once they hear a hint of that virus. Others refuse that she is infected. One fellow even went with her to a Voluntary Counselling and Testing centre (VCT) to affirm her claims. On the way back after the results, she was alone. You now understand when I say Martin is a few of the good.
All three agree that notifying your partner is crucial as hard as it is, DON’T KEEP QUIET. This will reduce the burden that you are carrying of keeping the secret as well as that of your partner when they contract it. This will be a huge step in bringing forth a generation free from HIV/AIDS.
Rose’s story is quite different as she has been in her marriage for 15 good years. Alive with the virus. Her husband is in the know and he has accepted her as she is. They are walking together, In Sickness and In Health. This is the age we are in. Stigmatisation should stop. Sensitize the other person. Only when we join hands can the fight against AIDS be effective.
Public hospitals offer free ARVs therefore, no one should be selling them to you, not for a shilling! This is an initiative by the government to reduce the costs incurred by the victims. The drugs should be kept well in good conditions and taken at a specified time for them to work well.
In addition to taking the ARVs on time, many fruits and vegetables should be integrated in the diet. Exercise regularly. Plenty of water intake acts as a cleanser not forgetting regulation of metabolism.
With these in mind, you will live longer than the stigmatizers. Those who refrain from associating with the infected. It is time to kill the propaganda. Having the virus has nothing to do with promiscuity in some cases. Let’s support our families, friends and the community at large for AIDS is the enemy and they, only victims.
Take the first step to know your status at the VCT around you. Anza sasa!